As the bell rings at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon, students have varied plans. While students’ plans range from going to Fallsgrove to getting a head start on their homework, the boys’ varsity basketball team has plans of their own.
Fallsmead Elementary school has been hosting the boys’ varsity basketball team every other Friday of the season to assist in first grade classrooms. The team goes after school to read books and help facilitate classroom activities. “We either read to them in small groups or work with them on a lesson that the class has been learning about,” coach Erick Graves said.
When the classes had been learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. earlier in the year, the players were able to help the students work together to learn how to accomplish goals peacefully. While leading discussions, the players worked with the Fallsmead students to complete the project they were working on.
“It is how we give back to the community and give the kids people to use as role models,” junior guard Ryan Warshaw said. “It makes me feel great to connect with the kids because I remember when I was younger how happy I was when a high school basketball player would visit my classroom.”
While working with Principal Kim Boldon, the basketball team launched this collaboration between the team and the elementary school this season. Boldon reached out to the cluster schools for the opportunity and the team chose Fallsmead, due to its proximity to this school.
Graves had prior experience having his players work with younger students at his previous program at Montrose Christian. “I saw how positive this program could be and wanted to bring it to our community,” Graves said.
The Wootton Cares Reading and Mentoring Program gives players a chance to see the impact they can have as positive role models in this community. It also shows them how taking time out of their Friday every other week to read a book to a younger student, or even just giving a simple high five, can make an impact on someone. “It is nice to be part of something bigger than myself,” Warshaw said.
According to Graves, the basketball team hopes to continue this collaboration in the future, with hopes that other teams will follow their lead. “It is a win-win for the students and players,” Graves said. “The program allows the players to grow as young men and gives the students role models, both in the classroom and on the court or field.”
The basketball team held a Fallsmead Game Day on Feb. 14 vs. Gaithersburg. All Fallsmead first graders were invited to the game to be honored at halftime.