DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Athletic Department successfully completed its 14th year of the Verizon Read With The Blue Devils program with a pair of visits to local elementary schools last week from Duke student-athletes.
A total of 24 Durham elementary schools received in excess of 50 visits from Duke student-athletes from all 26 varsity sports. Last week, eight student-athletes made visits to Easley Elementary and Glenn Elementary in Durham.
“You have no idea what this means to these kids,” Patricia Henderson, a third grade teach at Glenn Elementary School and mother of former Duke basketball standout Phil Henderson, told Duke’s student-athletes in attendance. “I know what you have to go through as student-athletes, especially at Duke, balancing athletics and academics. Expectations are set so high for Duke student-athletes. Thank you so much for coming out.”
Duke’s trip to Glenn Elementary was on Friday with DeMarcus Nelson (men’s basketball), Jeramy Edwards (football), Nicole Dudek (field hockey) and Mindy Nguyen (cross country and track & field), and about 130 students participated.
“This program means so much for our school,” said Sharyl Eggert, the reading coordinator at Glenn Elementary. “These student-athletes are such great role models for our kids. It’s just a great program.”
Thursday, Lee Melchionni (men’s basketball), Allie Johnson (women’s lacrosse), Alison Stankavage (cross country and track & field) and Polly Bendush (volleyball) made a visit to Easley Elementary and read and visited with about 100 kids.
“They were funny, engaging and could read with enthusiasm,” said Adam Eisenson, reading coordinator at Easley Elementary. “The children and teachers were very impressed. Thanks to Duke for helping our students. We hope to see you next year.”
The Read With The Blue Devils program is intended to aid area teachers by providing reading incentives for third and fourth graders in Durham. By reading for 15 minutes for 12 nights, a youngster is able to reach various levels and earn Blue Devil gifts along the way. Among the prizes given out are autographed team photos, posters, t-shirts and chances to meet Duke student-athletes at various functions.
The goals of the program have remained the same since its inception:
- Encourage young kids to read at an early age.
- Reach at-risk youngsters to provide positive reinforcement and enhance their chance for success.
- Show children that reading can be fun.
- Provide incentives to get children to learn goal-setting skills, attain levels of achievement and improve reading skills and habits.
- Reach teachers and parents to provide support to kids by encouraging reading.