Hartford, Conn. - On Tuesday, April 26, sixth grade students from The McDonough Expeditionary Learning School (MELS) bussed over to Trinity College’s Ray Oosting Gymnasium for the second annual Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) Field Day. Led by representatives from most of Trinity’s varsity teams, the MLES sixth graders’ voices could be heard throughout the building cheering on their teammates in games of dizzy bat, shuttle runs, corn hole, and basketball. Senior football captain Kyle Pulek spearheaded the program for MELS last year.
“The idea came about in November 2014, said Pulek. "The football team had been participating in a mentoring program with MELS, which mostly functioned in the classroom. It seemed like we already had a great connection. The kids came for an hour or two a week, and SAAC was looking for more community outreach. We wanted to do something with all of the athletes for more time, not just in chunks spread out over the week. The first one, in April of 2015, was a huge success."
The program has been such a success that the SAAC has recently decided to host different field day activities for different grades. Their ability to cater to the kids has only reinforced their relationship with the school and the kids.
“I just like to see everybody have fun. And it’s just as much fun for the Trinity athletes too. When was the last time we got to play dizzy bat?” Pulek said. “The kids just laugh and smile the whole time, which is fantastic and when I mentor back in the school setting, it’s all they talk about. It’s something I know they’ll remember. Lately, I’ve seen three or four MELS kids ride on bikes through Trinity, and they’ll stop and talk to Trinity students they know.”
Another reason the SAAC field days have been such a success is because the MELS students get to see the college in a light other than strictly academic. “I think part of it is letting them talk to college students who show them that studyinh hard and going to college is a reality for them. Bringing 30 athletes together with 40 to 50 kids helps them realize it’s attainable for them. It gives them the ability to see the College in a non-overwhelming way,” Kyle said.
In the future, SAAC plans to keep the connection with McDonough strong. “I know everyone on the committee is an underclassmen, and most of them are returning,” Kyle said. “The amount of success it’s had over the last two years is tremendous and that will propel us forward. The McDonough administration, the sports communications department, the athletics facilities people – all of us collaborate and make this happen. It’s something about connecting with the community to see kids have fun. Everyone is willing to prioritize it.”
written by Arleigha Cook '16