Laker football program adopts reading curriculum for elementary students

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What started as a concept Coach Dave LeVasseur tried to implement at two different schools has blossomed at Laker schools.

The Laker football program has launched a reading program, which sees groups of two football players travel to elementary school to read to children in different classrooms.

“I did that once in a while when I was coaching at Pinconning,” coach Dave LeVasseur said. “I also did it a bit in Oscoda. However, it wasn’t quite consistent there. I was able to do it here thanks to the people involved. The district is open and willing to do things like that. It helps with planning and logistics. A lot of people have to be involved.”


“What people don’t realize is that the kids who go to read are sacrificing not only their schedule, but also the teachers’ schedule,” LeVasseur added. “The teachers are very friendly and worked very well with us. Their schedules and administrators are extremely friendly for that.”

When LeVasseur brought the idea to Laker High School principal Jon Good, he thought it was a great idea and saw the players react positively to it.

“Young kids look up to older kids, especially when they’re wearing a Laker uniform,” he said. “It has helped the players understand their responsibilities as role models for young children. I think this is a great opportunity for every Laker athlete to give back to the school and the community and to understand the responsibility that comes with the wearing a Laker uniform.”

Laker Elementary School Principal Jill VerBerg also loved the idea that LeVasseur pitched and implemented.

“We have a lot of student mentors who are really positive,” she said. “Any chance to have other students or athletes here to work with the kids, I’m all for it. I’m all about having that kind of experience for the little ones.”

According to LeVasseur, the program started as a trial and grew from there.

“During the trial period, I opened it up to teachers and informed everyone,” he said. “I would proceed based on how well it worked and how smoothly it transitioned. It worked so well that I put together a schedule for the second half (which is now in place). I planned it at the forward until the end of the year.”

Laker second-grade teacher Tracy Gordon said the football players are true role models for young students.

“When they walk into my class, it looks like they have magical powers,” she said. “For them to promote reading and a strong interest in children, it motivates my children to read. If they read a book, my children want to read this book or this series. It is a real inspiration to teach the value of reading, and as seen by the players, it is emulated by my children.”

“Besides the importance of reading, the other important value they taught is to be a team player,” she added. “Four things players teach kids are trust, respect, friendship and practice. Hard work pays off. What you want in life isn’t easy. Kids are mesmerized when players arrive .”

LeVasseur said the players loved reading to the kids and they see the importance of having an influence on other kids.

“They know their roar, their presence that they have,” he said. “We have a flag football league that is played on Saturdays. Our guys come in and offer to officiate the games and camps they have. We have the young guys in the parade for the drive home, the kids run around the pitch during games. the guys know how powerful and influential it is on them and on the kids.”

LeVasseur also said the exposure of players reading to children is extremely important.

“What can be overlooked about it is the influence of children, as the player looks larger than life,” he said. “Young boys see our players as heroes or superheroes. When they see them doing things like that, it motivates them to do things that point to them or support them as community stewards. When they take the time for it translates later in life into helping on a larger scale.”

“Our players and our children are a family,” he added. “I now see young kids going to basketball games to see the kids reading to them play. I see our young people connecting to everyone around them and to the community.”

Gordon said two players in particular, Dylan Wehner and Mikel Good, had a big impact on his students.

“They helped out and celebrated by playing games, did crafts with us over Christmas time, and really are part of our class,” she said. “The relationship with the class has been remarkable. It has exceeded any expectations I could have had with this program.”

Gordon also said Wehner and Good taught the class the principles of trust, respect, friendship and practice.

“We are a team in the classroom and in the school,” she said. “It’s not just the sports teams working on all of these things, it ripples everywhere. It’s not just about the classroom. Our students use these skills throughout. I’m excited to continue this program.”

Jon Good sees the benefits of the program for all students involved and would like the program to continue.

“It makes older athletes aware of their responsibilities as students and athletes,” he said. “It allows younger students to be a model of something to aspire to while reinforcing the importance of academics.”

VerBurg would also like to see the program continue and expand to see other teams and extracurricular programs involved.

“I would love to see it expand to other athletes and teams, and involve other students for theater and band,” she said. “It would give kids the opportunity to have kids work in different aspects of high school. Our students look up to high school kids a lot.”

“Every opportunity where students have interests in a subject, we want them to work with high school students,” she added. “It’s a big deal for our little kids. It’s just another great opportunity to empower our high school students, to help our little ones find something they’re interested in. It helps find their ‘why.'”

Gordon would also like the program to continue, by any means possible.

“We’re really looking forward to getting to know other players as well,” she said. “Dylan (Wehner) and Mikel (Good) have touched our hearts. We hope this program will continue for a long time to come. The children are thrilled to see the players from our school walking to their class. We as teachers are also, because it’s a good experience.”

“This program helps to show children that they are loved, and also how they feel,” she added. “It’s very important. I look forward to this program continuing and growing.”

LeVasseur said he is grateful to everyone who has participated in the program so far.

“A number of people have to be invested in this, the young men who come through, the teachers and the staff,” he said. “The sheer number of people involved in this is a testament to how this is tied to our success. I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”

The program will not only continue for the rest of this school year, but the program is expected to continue into next season and beyond.

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