‘Reading buddies’

Members of the Cards football team help in elementary school classrooms each Friday


Joe Veen

Junior Bo Lopez sits with second grade students at Homecroft Elementary on Oct. 28. Small groups of players go to several different elementary schools in the district each Friday.

The SHS football team had a successful season this year. And though their record may not show it, their wins came in other meaningful ways.

Head football coach Alex Bettag started a program last year where a handful of players pack up their things and go to the local Perry Township elementary schools to read and play games with students, and he wanted to continue it this year. 

Through this program, many players have found happiness, inspiration and enjoyment while giving back to the kids in their community. 

“They (the football players) don’t necessarily get anything out of it other than the good feelings of knowing that you’re helping somebody else,” Bettag said. 

Every Friday since the beginning of their season, a group of players have gone to four of the elementary schools and two of the kindergarten centers in Perry Township. 

Bettag’s inspiration to do this was that he had a similar opportunity when he was in high school. He liked going to schools and helping out the teachers, so he wanted his own players to have an opportunity like that. 

“I know I enjoyed it as a football player, I know the young elementary school kids loved seeing me in my jersey, and I know that the teachers really appreciated me being there to help with whatever they needed,” Bettag said. “I just thought that it’d be nice to get something like that going.”

His players thoroughly enjoyed his idea, and many of them have decided to seize the opportunity and participate . It gives them a reason to look forward to iPass on Fridays, and it’s a good way to end the week. This sentiment goes not just for the players, but also applies to the kids they see.

“It shows the little kids that us older people care for them,” sophomore Braylon Koenig said.

Bettag wants this program to keep going all year long. They are at least going to continue it until December, and then they will regroup with the elementary school teachers after winter break is over to figure out what the best steps moving forward are.

Sophomore Braylon Koenig plays a game with with Homecroft Elementary students in the hallway on Oct. 28. The Reading buddies help goes beyond reading. (Joe Veen)

There are many benefits to this program for both sides. The players learn leadership skills and how to be a good mentor for younger kids. Their acts of service to their school community can also make them feel better after a long day. And, they can even learn how to be more confident in social situations. 

“Some people have social anxiety,” Koenig said. “And talking to little kids is a good way to help get over that.”

Though it may have been intimidating at first, all those involved in the program have found a multitude of benefits. These ‘wins’ may not be seen on the field or deemed conventional , but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful.

“It gives the kids someone to look up to,” junior Bo Lopez said. “It’s pretty cool to be a role model.”