Visit to elementary school on National Read Across America Day reminds football players “why we play the game”

Junior DB Dmitry Smith reading to elementary school students (Photo Courtesy of Athletic Communications)

This year’s National Read Across America Day–a nationwide celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday–was last Friday, March 2. Just as they did last year, the Leopards were eager to participate. Lafayette head football coach John Garrett, who shares his birthday with Dr. Seuss, accompanied some dedicated coaches and student-athletes to visit Forks, Tracy and Paxinosa elementary schools for the annual celebration.

In the spirit of Seuss’s and Garrett’s birthdays, the football players and coaches read Dr. Seuss books to students, which was met with great enthusiasm. According to the sophomore linebacker Jack Lamb, the grade-schoolers had a great time and not only enjoyed hearing about Dr. Seuss, but also about the lives of student-athletes at Lafayette. They asked the athletes question after question about their academic and athletic careers, their favorite cars and favorite foods.

“The kids had an absolute blast,”  Lamb wrote in an email. “A lot of them were happy just to take a break from what they were learning in class and listen to a Dr. Seuss book. They loved asking questions before or after the reading of the book…I also got the opportunity to go into the cafeteria while some students were eating lunch and interact with them. They were very excited to hear all about football, who my favorite players are and even my stats.”

Lamb, who participated last year too, mentioned that when asked who was willing to participate, he immediately volunteered after having participated in the previous year.

“I volunteered to go, as I had went last year and had a blast reading to the kids,” he wrote. “It was overall a great experience last year, and I had been looking forward to going back and reading again.”

Lamb has nothing but admiration for the annual event.

“I think it is a great tradition,” he wrote. “It is important for us as a football team to go out and support and interact with the community, and sort of give back. Besides our families it is the community that supports our teams here at Lafayette, and so going out and giving back to them is very important.”

Lamb wrote that seeing the children’s reaction helps him remember the meaning of his sport.

“I also think it is a great tradition because it helps us to remember why we play the game. You walk in and see all these kids so happy to see a football player (and a lot of them had no idea what Lafayette College was, they were just excited to see people in [a football] uniform) and it inspires you, because now these kids are looking up to you.”

Junior Dmitry Smith is another veteran to this tradition, having been an active member with his church youth group while in middle and high school, and was eager to participate once again.

“I participated in it last year and I really enjoyed myself,” Smith wrote in an email. “I think that it’s really cool seeing how much of an impact someone older has on younger kids. They really look up [to you] and your accolades and hopefully it will inspire them to achieve the same or even better.”

Smith wants to inspire the kids he met on National Read Across America Day.

“We are privileged to be a part of a prestigious team like Lafayette’s,” he wrote. “The school itself facilitates a platform of success so I believe our ability to represent the school allows for others to strive for success. I told every kid that I earned my scholarship and anyone can do the same if they put in the work and focus on their goal. I think being an example of hard work paying off is the tangible evidence for ‘you can do anything you put your mind to.’”

One third-grade class at Forks Elementary sang to Coach Garrett for his birthday. He later headed to Paxinosa Elementary with a different group of players.

“It’s a great way to inspire and encourage the kids to read. It’s [so] important for their development,” Garrett said in an interview with GoLeopards. “It’s a great opportunity for us and our team to get to schools in the community and encourage the students to read–to let them know how fun it is and how important it is.”

Both Lamb and Smith plan to return next year.

“I am definitely going to go back next year for my junior year, and I am really looking forward to the experience again,” Lamb wrote.

“Of course [I would participate in this event again],” Smith said. “I know when I was little I loved being around older kids so I would love to provide that opportunity again and help impact someone’s day, week, month or year.”

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