UNC athletes, third-graders in win column

A chant of “Ollie, Ollie, Ollie” rises after the third-grader grabs the flag and sprints off for his leg of a relay race. It’s almost the end of a special time at Chapel Hill’s Glenwood Elementary School.

Carolina’s varsity athletes are hosting an April field day to celebrate the “Adopt-a-Classroom” time they shared in two of Glenwood’s third-grade classrooms during spring 2011.

Shrieking children swarm around the UNC students, who offer encouragement — “Great job! Way to go!”

Overseeing the scene is Jordan Allyne, a senior on the women’s golf team. Allyne, along with lacrosse player Meredith Newton, rower Kelsey Grich and field hockey’s Meghan Lyons organized the “Adopt-a-Classroom” project. They developed lesson plans that UNC’s teams used for two visits each week to the classrooms of teachers Candace White and Kristen Cho.

The different themes included Martin Luther King’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, Random Acts of Kindness, President’s Day, Nutrition and Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

“Going Green” was the theme when the softball team visited White’s classroom. They sat in small groups —two teammates and six children —to read a book and discuss what it means to re-use, reduce and recycle.

Afterward, the players fielded questions: How old are you? What classes do you take? Are you roommates? When’s your next game? What’s softball? Which is harder, a baseball or softball? What other sports do you play?

“The children are really excited each visit,” says White. “In social studies we talked about communities and this helped us understand how to connect with another group. We also talked about character traits, and it’s positive to see students who‘ve had the drive and determination to go to college.

“The athletes do many of the same things we do, but it’s in a new voice and different perspective.”

Glenwood student Emma Brown says that the visits are “really awesome.” Her favorite moment was when the volleyball team helped the children make valentines.

Back at the field day celebration, swimmer Allison Barnes catches children as they run to join a game. “What’s your name?” she asks each one. She and teammates Vinny Pryor and Joe Kinderwater normally hear the cheering; today, they do the cheering.

While Ollie and classmates score a relay win for Mrs. White, three rowers – Blair Puleo, Maria Santoyo, Lindsay Paterniti – prepare to distribute flower seeds, scooping soil into cups in which the children will plant the seeds. They finish just as the children line up for a drink of water, a cup of seeds and lots of high fives.

“I hope that the experience has been just as much fun for the children as it has been for us,” Allyne says. “One of the biggest things is that we’ve encouraged them to be more confident, especially when reading to people they’ve just met. Plus, they’ve been able to meet and interact with people who are good role models.”

Published May 23, 2011.

Story by Scott Jared; video by Rob Holliday, UNC-Chapel Hill University Relations.