Some Buffalo Public school students had a chance to welcome a Buffalo Bill player into their classroom. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the Classroom Champions program provides mentoring from athletes for students.
More than 30 fifth graders at the Harriet Ross Tubman School on city's east side were so excited to host Buffalo Bills punter Colton Schmidt. In fact, some said they couldn’t even believe he was standing inside their classroom. Schmidt and team mates Jerel Worthy and Preston Brown are serving as mentors to five classrooms in the Buffalo region through the Classroom Champions.
The mentoring program was started in 2009 by Olympic Gold Medalist and Buffalo native Steve Mesler. It provides student mentoring in underserved communities. But now the program has expanded with a pilot program underway funded by the Buffalo Bills Foundation.
“You know it gave us some perspective on the mentorships we had and were able to pass down lessons from them, but it’s really just stuff as simple as goal-setting, talking about perseverance’s – the latest chapter – you know just being really positive and give them a lot of encouragement,” Schmidt explained.
Schmidt visited two classrooms Tuesday. Fourth graders at Heritage Heights in Amherst and students at Harriet Tubman School.
“I think it’s great for everyone – all kids. Give them hopes, dreams. It’s just such a positive impact,” responded Schmidt.
“Did you guys sign yet?” Schmidt asks students. “No. No,” some replied.
The Bills punter is making sure these school children will be represented out of the football field. He passed around his cleats for each student to sign as part of the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats campaign. That’s where players select a nonprofit to raise awareness, so Schmidt picked Classroom Champions as his cause.
“To me it seems simple – I show up and you can see the impact it has, so it’s a no brainer to do something like that and we are in a position to positively affect them,” Schmidt noted.
Schmidt will wear the signed cleats when the Bills take on the New England Patriots for their home game December 3rd. Students are thrilled their names will be on the football field.
Fifth grader James Paige said it was very exciting to interact with a Buffalo Bill.
“I learned that you can do anything – you just got to try,” Paige declared.
“And the goal really, of the program, is to give children an opportunity to talk about positive impacts they can have on the community, possible social skills and really too inspire them to achieve and to stay in school and work really hard at their academics so they can have opportunities given to them in the future,” said Heather English, principal at the Harriet Tubman School.
The school started the Classroom Champions two years ago.
“Our school vision statement is every child – every classroom – no exceptions – no excuses, so matter what our children come to school with – whatever their home life – whatever they experienced in their community – when they walk in here – they are the number one priority and their success is our number one goal,” stated English.
Fifth grader Gloria Isinbe tells us it was “cool” and “exciting” to see a the player in their classroom.
“Have you learned from this?” asked Buckley. “Yeah. I’ve learned that you can achieve any goal,” responded Isinbe.
Students said having this player in their classroom is providing inspiration. Fifth grader Dayohnna Porter said the mentor program has taught her to follow her “dreams”.
“What would your dream be?” Buckley questioned. “To be a teacher,” replied Porter.
The mentoring program will continue throughout the school year inspiring these students to succeed in school.