Cats in the Classroom

Seventy-eight student-athletes from eight different K-State Athletics teams spent time helping with math and reading classes, hung out and talked to kids at lunch, and played basketball in PE.
"Sports can really change kids' lives, and then, conversely to have those student-athletes serving as mentors to our kids, it's huge. Kids need good role models," Frank V. Bergman Elementary School principal Lori Martin explained. "Research shows us that if you have a positive role model you can align yourself with, it can be life changing, and it really can. So by coming over here, each one of those student-athletes has embraced that challenge, that commission to be that role model for our kids."
Through the hard work of Cori Pinkett, Director of Life Skills for K-State Athletics, Cats in the Classroom came to life this week and children from all over Manhattan had the opportunity to hang out with some of their favorite Wildcat stars.
"I enjoy it. You never get to really spend time with kids, and it feels good to come back here and be a kid again," football junior Tyler Lockett said with a smile as he exchanged a high-five with a second-grader walking down the hallway. "To just get to play with them, whether you're in the gym, playing outside or reading, whatever it is, being able to interact with these kids, especially when some of them look up to you, it's a really fun experience."
And the young students definitely look up to these student-athletes.
Martin shared one story from the week where Lockett was given the opportunity to chat one-on-one with one of her students.
"I invited Tyler in yesterday because we have a young man that just needs to be inspired," Martin explained. "For me to give lessons about the importance of a strong work ethic, trying hard, doing well in school and doing well in sports, it doesn't mean nearly as much as it meant when he heard Tyler share it with him."
Martin said, though the student was a little shy at first, his face brightened up when given the opportunity to learn from Lockett.
Bergman Elementary School math teacher Kim Droge knows a thing or two about K-State, and especially K-State Athletics, as the alumna has been working in Bergman Elementary School for nearly 20 years and is married to former K-State basketball forward Dan Droge (1974-77).
Mrs. Droge said on Tuesday morning the men's golf team visited one of her math classes and helped explain negative numbers - a math topic that's very important to success on the golf course.
"It's so fun to walk by and hear the little sidebar conversations the athletes have with our students," Mrs. Droge said. "These student-athletes have been great. They just come right in and join in the class."
On Wednesday, K-State volleyball junior Taylor Johnson and men's basketball freshman Marcus Foster also joined one of Mrs. Droge's fifth grade math classes for a morning filled with learning how to multiply fractions.
"To be able to give back in the classroom to kids that think so much of you as role models, it's nice to be there," Johnson said. "When I heard I'd be helping with math, don't get me wrong, I was a little bit nervous, but it was a great learning experience for myself and then to be able to realize I could help these students and see the smile on their faces, that was great to see."
After the math lesson, Mrs. Droge passed out papers with 'fraction races' on them, and when she said, "Start," each student would tackle a line of multiplication problems - the first one to finish was the winner.
"That's no fair, you guys are taller than us!" one student giggled when Mrs. Droge said Johnson and Foster would also be participating in these math races.
"It was fun to see the smile on the kids' faces while helping out with math. I didn't even know what I was doing," Foster laughed, "but I had a lot of fun and I hope they did too."
Much to the students' delight, Foster and Johnson even took home some homework of their own.
"I was a 'pal' in high school, so I had three mentees and I'd go see them every week," Foster explained about his passion for being a mentor to kids. "I think it's fun. The little kids are funny and they like to talk to you. I'll definitely be doing this again."
After the class, and after hugs and high-fives were given and autographs were signed, the students and the student-athletes parted ways.
"I've been so impressed with the athletes and the people that they are," Martin said. "What they do on the court and what they do on the football field is extremely impressive and it gets our attention, but once we pay attention to them we want them to be people that our kids can admire and emulate and so that's a big responsibility for them."

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