While the Argyle football team has become the toast of the town in recent weeks, Hilltop Elementary School Assistant Principal Mandi Pels said there is another side to the Eagles players that should impress people even more.
Many of the players are part of a program called Football Buddies that pairs high school athletes with elementary school students in an academic setting.
Pels said the program has been going on for “as long as anybody can remember,” and has done a world of good for the younger students.
“The players are in different classrooms, so they do a lot of different things,” Pels said. “Some of them read to the younger groups of students, they’ll call out spelling words, they’ll play word or math games, and they check work.
“We have one young man, Trey Keenan, who serves in our content mastery, which is where our kids go when they need extra help, and he is there to help them out on whatever they are doing.”
Keenan has committed to Texas Tech University for 2012 to play Division I football.
“With Trey, we have one little boy who will do his work kind of sloppy on Monday,” Pels said. “His teacher will say, ‘what do you think Trey will say about this when he comes and visits on Friday?’ and that little boy will fix it up really pretty, because he doesn’t want to disappoint his football buddy.”
Pels said seeing the students reactions to the Argyle High School football players is always fun.
“When they first come in, the children are just in awe of how big the boys are,” Pels said. “Now, if they know their football buddies are coming and are going to be a part of their classrooms, their faces light up when they’re there, but they also appreciate that it is about them, and they will be able to ask some questions if they need to.”
Pels said she has seen how the Hilltop students have benefited from the program, as well.
“Any individual attention that kids can get is beneficial,” Pels said. “Personally, what I love about this the most is that they see the heroes on the field showing how important schoolwork is.
“It’s really easy for kids to see them on the field, high fiving, but they don’t necessarily see them in the classroom. For those big boys to come in with their jerseys on and sit down at those little bitty desks and read a book and ask questions about it, those kids see value in what they are doing, too.”
Pels, a former tennis coach at AHS, said she would like for her students to take away a few things from the Football Buddies program that will stay with them throughout their academic careers.
“Athletics is huge at Argyle,” Pels said. “I’m an ex coach, and a huge believer in athletics, but I’m an even bigger proponent of academics and athletics combined. I think to be a well rounded student, they have to be good students, competitive athletes and show that they serve.
“I think that our kids see that in our players, and our mission is to continue that.”