Justin F. Kimball High School student-athletes would have otherwise headed to the State Fair of Texas’ Secondary Fair Day with their peers on Friday, Oct. 16. Instead, they agreed to venture over to Thomas Tolbert Elementary School to participate in a team community service effort.
“We are excited about the opportunity to have a partnership with Kimball, our feeder school,” said Tolbert Principal Lakeisha L. Smith of Kimball’s basketball and cross country teams’ visit to her campus. “Our students need to see that older kids do give back. We’re always talking about how we are a community service or a community project school and now they have an opportunity to see what Kimball is giving back to us as we give to others, so this is really a full circle moment and we are excited about that opportunity.”
Around 10 a.m., the athletes traded in their sneakers for books, reading to students, assisting teachers in their classrooms with learning activities and, in some cases, delivering lessons themselves.
“These student-athletes walk into a classroom in their uniforms and get the younger students’ attention almost immediately,” said Nicke Smith, head coach of the Kimball boys basketball team. “To see someone that looks like you, that attended this school, that can help you understand how important it is to get a good foundation in school, could make a difference for some of these students in terms of their ability to stay focused on achieve in the classroom.”
This is the second year in a row the student-athletes participated in this effort – a practice Smith carried over from his former appointment as a head boys’ basketball coach at L.G. Pinkston High School years prior.
Smith wants the young men in his program to understand that education and learning will outlast any athletic career they could hope to have and will be the vehicle to drive college and career readiness as they move towards graduation. He wants the student-athletes to use their position as role models to frame the message of having a love for reading among younger students.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Kimball junior point guard Odessey Keeling. “I used to be in the same situation, being a little kid in school and it’s great to come back and be helpful. I’m looking forward to working with the kids here at Tolbert, to encouraging them and making sure to remind them to keep their heads up and stay focused, to have fun being students.”
Smith said many of the student-athletes develop mentorship relationships out of these efforts, helping to inspire younger students to work harder to achieve academic excellence.
“I wanted my girls to be a part of this,” said Brenda Torres, Kimball cross country coach. “I really want them to give back and to see the building block of having progressed from where these kids are as elementary students to where they are now so that they realize how far they’ve come and for them to stay motivated through graduation. I wanted them to have the opportunity to give back to these students and be an example of the importance of literacy and learning.”