Oct. 31, 2002
Brown student-athletes took a break from their hectic schedules to visit the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School in Fox Point on Wednesday morning for an assembly to kickoff their partnership with the Literacy Campaign.
Student-Athlete Advisory Board Presidents Jessie Cooper '03 and Chris Relf '03 talked about making good decisions such as staying drug-free and the importance of role models.
The assembly also established a book donation campaign to supplement classroom libraries throughout the school. Like many public schools, the Gregorian School has been hard hit by budget cuts and hopes Brown and its student-athletes will help fill every classroom with quality reading material.
The SAAB has placed drop boxes in department buildings to allow professors and students to donate gently used children's books to the elementary school. The SAAB also has an agreement with the Brown Bookstore for a 20 percent discount on books purchased for the school.
Though this is the first year of SAAB's partnership with Literacy Campaign, for the past twelve years Brown athletes have been regular visitors to the Fox Point School, taking time to mentor the school children and help with their reading and math skills.
SAAB has set up a system where every class in the school is sponsored by a specific team, and team members drop in on a weekly basis.
During the assembly, the students, wearing t-shirts with the slogan "Ready, Set, Read," offered cheers of appreciation to each sports team. Afterwards, Brown student-athletes met with them in their classrooms.
So far the mentoring program has been a tremendous success.
"The kids love seeing the students," said Mandy Katz, the school coordinator of the literacy campaign. "It has created a nice relationship between them. They've bonded with the students and just their presence makes a difference."
Fox Point has seen an increase in reading and math scores in the past few years and has been named a District Jewel Box School by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Almond for being the top scoring school in the district in math and reading.
The literacy campaign hopes to continue the trend.
For the elementary students, having Brown students in the classroom not only reinforces what hard work can achieve, it also provides a healthy distraction from the day's lesson. "They play games with us, bring stuff for us, show us how to do things and teach us things about their sport," said Taylor Britto, whose fifth grade class is frequently visited by the men's crew team.
Brown coaches set aside time for athletes to visit the school.
"The (program) provides an opportunity to give back. We have students here once a week to every two weeks," said Rob Johnson, head coach of the track team.
At the end of the year, a few Gregorian students are chosen to attend Brown's year-end Sports Banquet, an honor reserved for outstanding all-round students.
Years ago, Brown adopted the school and Athletic Director David Roach started the mentoring program with now Gregorian School Principal Mary Brennan.
The school is named after former Brown President Vartan Gregorian, who strongly supported the school and community involvement by Brown students.
By Jermaine Matheson
Brown Daily Herald sports columnist