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Dogs With A Cause: bringing athletes to Lincoln Parish classrooms

January 30, 2017

Louisiana Tech basketball player Joniah White reads to a classroom of third and fourth graders for Dogs With A Cause. – Photo by Amy Vessel

 

MORGAN BERNARD
Staff Reporter | mrb056@latech.edu

 

Louisiana Tech’s athletics and College of Education are teaming up to visit elementary school students throughout Lincoln Parish.

 

Dogs With A Cause (DWAC) is a collaboration between Tech’s athletic teams and the Teacher Educators and Mentors (TEAM) Model Clinical Residency Program. DWAC brings athletes to the classrooms of third grade through fifth grade classes to help build skills in education.

 

Amy Vessel, director of Tech’s Clinical Residency Center, said the organization is an addition to the TEAM Model that is different from any project they have done before.

 

“It’s the main service project for the Clinical Residency Program,” she said. “The elementary education seniors are co-teaching right beside the athletes. These education students are sharing with Tech’s athletes how to read a book to specific grade levels, how to engage in purposeful conversations on key issues, how to serve as a role model and how to work together in a team teaching experience.”

 

Vessel said DWAC began this school year as a test trial and is expected to be expanded in the future.

 

“The 2016-17 academic year was a pilot with the men’s basketball team,” she said. “With Tech’s 16 teams, the plan is to add two athletic teams each year to an adopted TEAM Model Clinical Residency school.”

 

Vessel said the athletes gain experience and enjoy the program as much as the elementary school students.

 

“These athletes have the opportunity to walk in a teacher’s shoes,” she said. “It is an eye-opening experience for them, and the impact these athletes have on the elementary students cannot be measured. Time in the classroom as a role model is priceless.”

 

Kristen Seal, president of the Clinical Residency Program, said the athletes participate in the program by reading a book to the class and then, with some help from the education majors they are partnered with, talk about the book with the children.

 

“The curriculum consists of award-winning children’s books and a questionnaire to engage the students with the athletes on what they learned from the book,” she said. “These athletes show the kids what hard work and determination gives you.”

 

Eric Konkol, men’s head basketball coach at Tech, said he loved the idea of DWAC, and the team always looks forward to making their school visits.

 

“I think anytime there is a chance to take our team out into the community and meet the people that support us so much, it is a very positive thing,” he said. “The opportunity for our players to visit with young people, be role models for them, is a great benefit for us and for the young people in our community.”

 

Amy Brister, Ruston Elementary School principal, said she appreciates the DWAC program and her school’s students always look forward to the sport team’s visits.

 

“The program is a great way to connect with the community, and the kids love to see the team,” she said. “I think having the team here gives them the opportunity to see others who wanted to go to college, get experience and love to read.”

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