SE: Another Exciting Year for Cats in the Classroom

Ms. Wendy Randall’s special education class at Bergman Elementary School was in for a big surprise last week. Just like every day, the group lined up and walked outside for its morning recess, but unlike every day, waiting for them by the basketball hoops was 6-foot-10 Isaiah Maurice. 

The kids’ faces lit up instantly when they saw the Wildcat basketball player, and it didn’t take long before a group of boys surrounded Maurice on the mini cement court.

Maurice, a freshman forward on the K-State men’s basketball team and family studies major, was visiting Bergman Elementary as a part of K-State Athletics’ Cats in the Classroom program. He was one of more than 50 K-State student-athletes to volunteer his time in classrooms throughout the community this month. 

“It was a lot of fun,” said Maurice with a smile on his face. “It reminded me of my childhood. Seeing all of those kids so happy was just an amazing feeling. It was a new experience for me, but it made me realize one day I’d definitely like to mentor young kids; maybe even become an elementary school teacher. This is a field of work I would love to be in. I enjoyed coming out here today.”

For nearly an hour, Maurice shot hoops and played with Ms. Randall’s class. At one point, the children stood back and Maurice showed them how to do a slam dunk. 

“Did you see the reaction on their faces?” exclaimed Ms. Randall after Maurice’s dunk. “It means so much to me when I see the reaction on their faces when they make a connection with someone like that. My classroom is a little different because they might not understand exactly who he is, but when they they see someone who has an interest in them, someone who likes to do what they like to do, it’s special for these kids who, just getting up and out the door in the morning can be an uphill battle.” 

While Maurice was out at recess, track and field senior Tia Gamble was inside helping out fifth graders with their math homework.

“I hadn’t really studied fractions in a while, so I was a little rusty, but it was a lot of fun,” laughed Gamble after playing a game all about fractions. “It’s exciting to know that K-State cares about us developing as people and that we have outside opportunities other than just athletics. It means a lot that they really want us to be out there in the community. It creates relationships with the people who really support us the most.” 

Logan Frost, a freshman on the Wildcat rowing team, grew up visiting classrooms in her hometown of Salina, Kansas, and was happy to have the opportunity to do the same in her new college town. 

“My mom is an elementary school teacher, so growing up I’d always jumped back to my elementary school and did things with her,” explained Frost. “Cats in the Classroom was a chance to do the same thing somewhere else. It’s been a great experience and it means the world to me that there are so many opportunities to give back to the community through K-State Athletics. This is such a new community to me, so to have this opportunity to get involved is awesome.”

Frost enjoyed Cats in the Classroom so much that she volunteered to visit with children more than once. She spent time with Physical Education class at Northview Elementary School and also spent time reading to preschoolers at Panda Preschool.

“I think it’s a great experience for everyone involved; our kids love having them here and I think it’s great the athletes are willing to give back,” said Panda Preschool teacher Renae McDiffitt, a K-State graduate and long-time K-State Athletics fan. “When these kids see someone big walk in the classroom, their eyes light up and that’s really fun to see.”

Along with helping the elementary school students in their studies, the K-State student-athletes had the opportunity to talk to and get to know the children as well as answer any questions the kids had about their sports. 

It was a win-win for everyone involved as, while the children had the opportunity to learn from and get to know these student-athletes, the student-athletes who participated in this year’s Cats in the Classroom event had the opportunity to make a few new little Wildcat fans. 

Isaiah Maurice, a freshman on the K-State men's basketball team, spends time on the playground with Ms. Randall's class at Bergman Elementary School.

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh-Stewart or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.