It’s eight o’clock in the morning and the students shuffle into East Middle school to begin another day of class. Kimberly Corbel, an assistant principal at the school notices some children have a bit of excitement in their eyes as they fill the hallways.
This excitement is not in anticipation for the school day, but for the McDaniel Football team to stop by after the day is done. “I have students asking me in the morning if I know which players will be here that afternoon because they are hoping their favorite player will be here,” said Corbel. “The students absolutely adore their mentors. They now think it’s cool to stay after school to work on their academics because they have someone who is invested in them and care about their academic progress.”
A program started in spring 2012, the Green Terror players have once again begun tutoring youth in the area at the local East Middle School in Westminster. Other teams such as soccer and the lacrosse teams have instituted similar programs like the football team to help other youth in the community.
“The mission of the off season mentoring program is to help students who are either underprivileged, troubled, absent constantly, or just overall need help,” said Matt Hutchings, linebacker coach and coordinator of the mentoring program. “We meet with those students four days a week to try and create a mentor relationship and provide a role model for these youth.”
Hutchings knows the difference that a good role model makes for those kids who may need that strong influence in their life.
“Some of the students are in difficult home situations so if they can have a strong male presence that puts importance on academics, it makes an impact.” He says that just having an excuse to come to school and meet their mentor may be enough to get them to school in the first place.
But it’s not just the kids that benefit from this experience.
Ryan Mahoney, a sophomore linebacker for the Green Terror and history major, believes that the opportunity to teach and help these kids is aiding him in his future career field.
“The experience is the best thing about it,” Mahoney said, “I am thinking about pursuing a career in teaching social studies in a middle school so this is a great way for me to assure that I am going down the right career path.”
Mahoney said that he also gets a sense of personal satisfaction while helping the struggling youth.
“Some of them have no one else and if we could be there and make them happy and we are like their friend, that is the best feeling in the world, that you could have done something to change that kid’s life,” he said.
That sense of pride and satisfaction can easily be found throughout the team. That same feeling of accomplishment follows them each time they go to help.
“Tutoring these kids is something that just makes you feel good inside,” says freshman defensive back Luke Fernandez. “You spend an hour out of your day helping them with homework and any school work that they have to do. It’s a great time.”
Fernandez is new to the tutoring program, but has quickly grasped the importance this program plays in the community.
“I believe that these type of programs are very important for the community because it helps the community grow and it also helps with all of the children that don’t have it as easy as others,“ he said. “If more people took part in programs like this, they would see just how important and awesome these kids are.”
Marc Kozen, a junior tight end and fullback for the squad can relate to what Fernandez notices.
“They are great kids that have gone through or are currently going through hard times,” Kozen said. “And if we can help them with that with just being there for an hour, than I’m glad we do it.”
The Terror spend time helping the students with their homework, class assignments and any subject that they are having trouble with. But after all the schoolwork is finished, it is the games and athletic challenges that Hutchings enjoys the most.
“The best moments are when we are out playing games with our guys. These kids are pretty athletic, so they take pride if they can do well against a college athlete,” Hutchings said, “I can remember one young man who caught a pass over one of our players, and he bragged about it for the next month.”
After the success of the program last season, Hutchings and the coaching staff are looking for ways to expand and even improve the program for this year and years to come.
“We have been looking into some plans that would include field trips and other events that can help develop the middle school students,“ says the coach. “In the fall the students came to a practice to do some drills and play football with our guys. It is nice to get the students out of the classroom environment and see them have fun interacting with our players.”
Corbel thinks that these interactions with the McDaniel players have impacted the students greatly, even after they are finished at East Middle.
“I do keep in touch with our boys from last year, and know many of our students believe they made the Winters Mill Football Team because of lessons they learned from their mentors last year,” she said. “This year, we actually have a set of twins who have had 100% attendance since they started working with a mentor. Before, their attendance was horrible. Interestingly, their older brother, who had a similar problem with attendance, and who worked with a mentor last year, made Winters Mill’s Football Team this year, and is currently maintaining good grades. A mentor made a huge difference in this young man’s life.
Corbel notices that through all the tutoring it all the time in the students at her school.
“The mentors are making a world of difference for our students. We are seeing grades go up, attendance improve, and since they feel better about themselves, attitudes and behaviors are better, too,” said Corbel. “Mentors are working with students on missing assignments and homework, and they are teaching students how to study for tests. All of the feedback I have received – from students, their teachers, mentors and parents – has been positive.
Whether it is at the school or on the field, Hutchings says that it’s these type of follow up stories that makes it all worthwhile.
“It is great to hear when the students that we mentored, who were in danger of failing, now are being successful at the local high schools,” he said. “That’s when you know you have made a difference, when they are being successful on their own.”