Kindergartners at Carolina Forest Elementary School were paid a visit by Coastal Carolina University student athletes and mascot Chauncey for United Way of Horry County’s Caring for Kindergartners program.
The program promotes the importance of reading and giving by recruiting student athletes to read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
CCU sophomore track athlete Brandon Johnson, 19, said he hadn’t heard of the program before receiving an email about participating.
So I saw it for the first time, but I loved it for the first time.
Brandon Johnson, CCU track
“I didn’t know about it,” he said. “I read an email about it one morning and when I first saw it I was like ‘8:00 in the morning? Uh uh, no.’ But then after that I thought ‘Well it’s for kindergartners it’s only going to be something that I would love.” So I saw it for the first time, but I loved it for the first time.”
Johnson said he remembers professional sports teams visiting him at his elementary school in Baltimore where he grew up, and wanted to leave the same impression on the students at Carolina Forest.
I would have never seen myself reading a book in front of kindergartners. I always saw myself as being that kindergartner who was having a book read to them.
Brandon Johnson, CCU track
“It definitely left an impression and I’ll be back next year,” he said. “This is definitely a great opportunity. I would have never seen myself reading a book in front of kindergartners. I always saw myself as being that kindergartner who was having a book read to them. So to be able to have the opportunity come in here and help out these kids was really, really awesome.”
Students chosen for the program must have a GPA of more than 3.0, said CCU Associate Athletic Director Cari Rosiek.
The biggest takeaway doing this is definitely reading the story and getting across the strong message ... that giving is better than receiving.
Jenna Stover, CCU lacrosse
“The student athletes thoroughly enjoy the program,” she said. “Initially their thoughts are typically shy, ‘No I don’t want to do this, I have class,’ but once they get into the classroom they see the importance of teaching and stressing reading, they’re able to engage with the students and they leave feeling uplifted. They leave feeling proud they’ve been able to connect with someone.”
Senior lacrosse player Jenna Stover, 22, said her favorite part was interacting with the kids and being able to be a role model for them.
“I’ve actually been doing this for the past two years as I’ve been going to Coastal so it’s been really great,” she said. “The biggest takeaway doing this is definitely reading the story and getting across the strong message ... that giving is better than receiving. So it’s cool to translate that message through the story.”
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian