About 260 fourth and fifth grade students from the Church Street Elementary School in White Plains received a taste of college life on Jan. 4 by participating in the Court to Classroom event at Pace University in Pleasantville.
The Church Street School students received a tour of the Pace campus by one of the university’s students. Several Pace student-athletes also spoke to the elementary-school children and answered their questions at the Goldstein Fitness Center. The pupils were invited to attend that morning’s women’s basketball game between Pace and Molloy. They got the opportunity to meet the home team’s players and the Irish Setter Mascot T-Bone. Lunch was served and there were opportunities to play games.
Pace Director of Athletics and Recreation Mark Brown said this was the second Court to Classroom program. The first program, which is conducted at other institutions, was held for the first time at Pace two years ago but not held last year due to scheduling issues. “We value our role as an athletic department in a larger institutional community and we also value our relationship in the larger external community,” Brown said. “Our student-athletes and our coaches do a tremendous amount of external outreach.”
Court to Classroom is part of the players’ and coaches’ outreach, which also includes going to local schools to read, playing games at senior citizen homes and fundraising for charitable causes, Brown said. “We take our responsibility very seriously in what we bring to the community.”
“We introduce and strengthen the tie between academic successes and achievement and athletic opportunities and potential,” Brown said. “We bring the students in and talk to them about the college experience. They get to meet our student-athletes. They get to meet some faculty members and people on our staff. Everybody just has a really good time.”
One of the lessons of the day was the importance of fitness, which is more important than in the past, Brown said. “There are a lot of stresses on people these days. I think things move a little bit faster,” he said. “That creates a level of anxiety and stress in the general population.” Athletics allows a person to deal with stress and other issues in a healthy way, he said.
Associate Athletics Director for External Operations Drew Brown said an important part of the day for the elementary school students was attending the basketball game. “It’s great for them to to see what it’s like,” he said. “It’s something to aspire to.” The day encouraged students in such skills as having a healthy lifestyle, getting a good education and goal setting. “The theme of the day is connection to sports,” he said.
Church Street Elementary School fifth grade teacher Jackie Miller explained why the school wanted to take part in Court to Classroom for the second time. “It’s really important that we demystify what college is,” particularly since not all family members of the school’s students have attended college, Miller said. “For them, to get on a campus and see what it’s like and build that confidence and that comfort is really important.”
“The students are enthusiastic about Court to Classroom,” Miller added. “It is an incredible experience. They come out of here talking about how they’re going to college. They want to go to Pace. They want to keep playing sports. It’s really inspiring for them.”
Fifth grade student Deya Allen said the program was fun and interesting. It was her first tour of a college campus. “It’s very different” from her elementary school, she said.
Allen, who indicated she is planning on going to college, attended a lecture focused on “how math is related to sports.” She said swimming and ballet are important parts of her life.
Another fifth-grader, Logan Emmert, also enjoyed the program. “The gym is cool. Everything is pretty cool,” he said.
Pace students discussed the facilities on campus, including the sports facilities. Emmert, who plays hockey and baseball, said he looked forward to meeting the Pace women’s basketball team. “I’ve never been to a basketball game,” he said.
Two Pace student-athletes spoke about why they took part in the program.
Sophomore Austin Gilbertson, a member of the Pace men’s basketball team, said he took part to assist the university’s administrators and the team, as well as “to get to know some of the kids.”
Gilbertson spoke with students about math “and how college could be very helpful to people.”
The Pace athletes who participated showed the younger students how they put in the work. One of the questions the Pace athletes were asked was how they manage their time. “It’s one of those things you learn with time,” Gilbertson said.
Peyton Wejnert, a junior who is also a Pace varsity basketball player, said, “It was really great being with these young kids. I was in that position once talking to college kids. Now I’m speaking to kids and I hopefully can give them the idea that what they’re doing matters and how it can affect them later in life,” he said.