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Statesboro students merge athletics, education

    It was hard to tell who had the bigger smile for “Dr. Seuss Day” at Mill Creek Elementary to cap off  Read Across America week—the elementary students, or the Statesboro High School athletes that volunteered their time to read.
    Friday marked the end of Read Across America week for the Mustangs and to culminate the week-long celebration, many SHS athletes decided to serve as volunteer readers and read Dr. Seuss books to the students of MCES and Sallie Zetterower Elementary School.
    “The kids get really excited for it. They love seeing the Statesboro High (athletes),” said Mill Creek Elementary media specialist Joni Aycock. “I think the Statesboro high kids love it more than our kids.”
    Statesboro athletes represented their respective sports by showing up to read to students in their uniforms. Members of the Blue Devils’ cheerleading team, basketball team, football team and baseball team were in attendance Friday.
    Aycock, who came to school Friday dressed in a full “Cat in the Hat” costume—complete with tail and top hat, said having volunteer readers from Statesboro High School is part of the school’s tradition at the end of Read Across America week.
    The former fifth-grade teacher and media specialist said having high school student athletes come and read demonstrates the importance of an education while pursuing a possible career in sports.
    “We kind of do this to promote reading and promote lifelong readers. It’s kind of our goal,” Aycock said. “The kids love seeing the players and they say, ‘ahh football players, or ahh cheerleaders.”
    The volunteer group of around 18 SHS student athletes were split into groups of two and read to each grade in 15-minute sessions. The students read Dr. Seuss classics such as “Hop on Pop,” “One fish two fish red fish blue fish” and “Green Eggs and Ham.”
    Davis Wiggins, a multi-sport athlete for the Blue Devils, said the experience was fun and one that he would enjoy doing again.
    “It was fun seeing the look on the kids faces when you tell them you’re a football player or a baseball player,” Wiggins said. “Some were shy and some of them weren’t. They saw my football jersey and asked me questions about the team and how we were doing.”
    As a freshman, Wiggins played significant minutes for the Blue Devils as a starting quarterback. Wiggins is also a member of Statesboro’s baseball team.
    He said trying to balance school and sports can be tough, but he wanted to emphasize to kids that academics always comes first.
    “It’s hard. You just have to work at it. Not really much social time. Academics comes first and the coaches know that,” Wiggins said. “I just told the kids to stay at it, do their homework and learn.”
    Statesboro High School pitcher and first baseman Dalton Ross said his first time volunteering as a reader for Read Across America week at MCES and SZES was very enjoyable.
    “It was cool because they all look up to you. They want to be like you when they get to high school. I just told them to make sure to keep their grades up and make sure to act right,” Ross said. 
    Dr. Suess Day at Mill Creek Elementary can leave a lifelong impression on the athletes and students, Aycock said.
    On a shopping trip to Bi-Lo to pick up a cake to celebrate Dr. Seuss day, Aycock said she was stopped by a former Statesboro High School student.
    “He said, ‘I used to read at your school. That was so much fun. I wish I could go back,’” Aycock recalled.
    Aycock said she also plans to use her Cat in the Hat costume for next year’s reading week. 

    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.