April 16, 2011
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There are 24 varsity sport teams at the University of Iowa, but if you’re looking for a game of hopscotch, tag, or Red Rover, Coralville Central elementary school is your place.
The University of Iowa volleyball team has been reliving the classic playground games while volunteering at the school this spring semester. Megan Eskew, Rachel Bedell and Grace Burns make weekly visits to the playground, classroom, art studio and music room to help mentor kids in Coralville Central’s three kindergarten classes.
“The kids absolutely love it,” said Janet White, a kindergarten teacher at Coralville Central for 25 years. “They just get so excited to spend time with (the Hawkeyes) and they are so responsive. They really look up to the girls.”
During each visit, the Hawkeyes catch up with the kindergartners at recess before retreating to the classroom for traditional school activities — including reading, art and music.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Burns said after hitting the high notes in music class. “Today we sang about the different creatures you’d find in the sea. The kids are so smart and so fun to be around. I enjoy being here as much as they enjoy having us.”
The teachers and associates have also embraced the Hawkeyes’ visits.
“There’s a noticeable change in the kid’s behavior when the players come to visit,” said Jim Lynch, an education associate at Coralville Central. “The kids love to talk and play or do whatever the players have planned. They’ll hang on their every move. And the (Hawkeyes) are so good with the kids. It’s absolutely wonderful they make the time to visit.”
A few things have changed since some of the Hawkeyes attended kindergarten 13 years ago. Technology has hatched in Mrs. White’s class, where a video image focused on an eagle’s nest is continuously streamed live on the wall.
“That was so cool,” said Bedell. “The kids can go about their everyday kindergarten business while baby eagles are shown hatching on the wall. It’s amazing. I could watch it all day.”
Regular visits to Coralville Central are just the latest in a long line of services Iowa student-athletes do to give back to the community. Past deeds include trips to senior centers and the UI Children’s Hospital.
“I’m really proud of our players,” said head volleyball coach Sharon Dingman. “They have thoroughly enjoyed the elementary school program. Because we’ve been committed to one school this year the players have been able to develop relationships and really get to know the kids and the teachers. It’s a tremendous way to engage our community. I believe any day you can have a positive impact on a young person’s life is a good day.”
The Hawkeyes’ community contributions will be on display Sunday in the 13th annual “Day of Caring.” Student-athletes from 12 different sports will volunteer at 16 sites throughout the area to do some exterior painting, remove debris, clean windows and doors, and work with neighborhood youth and adults — amongst other things.
The volleyball team will split the team at a pair of locations — the Iowa City Shelter House and Access 2 Independence, a center for independent living.
“Involving ourselves in the community is something I think we should do as Hawkeyes,” said Dingman. “People look up to our student-athletes, and they should. We have a tremendous group of role models that appreciate the Iowa City community and they understand it’s important to be involved and to give back as much as we can.”