Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

November 2, 2012

High school players treat South Side students to game of catch

EFFINGHAM — Good behavior is rewarded in many ways. Some people receive a pat on the back, a good job or in some cases, a reward. At South Side School, the first-graders were rewarded for their good behavior by getting to meet players from the Effingham High School varsity football team, along with some of the cheerleaders.

    The children were brought out a few classes at a time. They were split into groups and enjoyed time with the cheerleaders, who taught them a few cheers and a chant. Afterward, a game of duck, duck goose was enjoyed.

    “They think we’re celebrities,” said Effingham High School senior and cheerleader Jacqui McDonald. “It’s fun to get outta school.”

    After visiting the cheerleaders and learning what school spirit means, the groups would rotate and the kids would learn what it is like to play on the field.

    “It’s fun to interact with them,” said senior Nathan Vail.

    The kids spent time doing less rigorous versions of football exercises, including passing, catching and throwing. One boy showed his future skills by launching the ball clear over senior Jeff Coleman’s head. Stepping back and laughing with a look of surprise, Coleman couldn’t get to the ball in time to catch it.

    “The kid has a heck of a gun,” he said.

    After learning the basics of handling the ball, the children move to the final and most rigorous section. Here, the kids did laps that turned into races.

    “I like everything,” said first-grader Kendyll Schoonover.

    In a group, Effingham football players Nathan Levitt, Zach Bloemker, Levi Michael, Coleman and Nathan Vail said they all agreed to come see the kids. The cheerleaders said the same thing. All agreed that it was a win-win because they get to leave school for a few hours. None remembered the high school doing any volunteering to come see them when they were younger and felt good about what they were doing.

    When the children rotated through all three groups, they went back to class and then the next group came out. South Side Principal Amy Niebrugge said she thought it was as much of a reward for the high-schoolers as the first-graders.

    “We were wanting to do monthly rewards for the kiddos,” said Niebrugge. She said the day is earned, and the kids have to be good to participate in the event. Niebrugge proudly said 96 percent of the students got to participate in the event, which “is pretty good.”

    “We try to think of new things for the kiddos to do every month,” said Niebrugge. She said in August, Ronald McDonald came to visit the kids. However, trips and getting to be outside seem to be more popular with the kids. In September, with parents’ permission, the kids were walked down to Bliss Park for recess.

    Niebrugge hopes to get the percentage of children attending the events to 100 in the future. However, she said 96 percent “was pretty darn close.”

    “I think they (the high school kids) enjoyed it too,” she said.

    Ryan Ellis can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at ryan.ellis@effinghamdailynews.com.

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