Big Brother program
Fourteen juniors and senior members of the Alta football team have become heroes to elementary students for more than just their hard hits and strong runs on the gridiron this year, as the high school athletes are helping youngsters learn to read, count and write as volunteers with the Big Brother program in the elementary school.
Each of the upperclassmen on the Cyclones varsity roster have set aside time to work with either individuals or entire classes in the K-6 school each week this fall, and have been able to forge strong bonds with the young population while helping them strengthen skills in a variety of subjects, including math, English, reading and writing.
While the Big Brother program has been in the Alta system for several years, head football coach Kevin Hammer decided to require each of his juniors and seniors to donate their time to kids through the program this year, a move which the veteran coach said has paid dividends for all of the players, teachers and young students involved.
"I think it's really been something that has been good for both sides," Hammer said. "The elementary kids really look up to the high school kids, and I think they really enjoy being able to learn things from them, and it's been a good way for the high school kids to get involved in the community and be good role models to the young kids. It's really been a win-win situation for everybody."
One of those win-win situations has taken place in Carolyn Lessmeier's second grade classroom, where junior Thomas Allerdings has helped students improve their math skills with a variety of innovative games involving counting coins and other items. Allerdings has been able to teach different groups of students at a wooden table in the corner of the classroom every morning while Lessmeier leads the rest of the class in daily lessons, and Allerdings said he has enjoyed his time assisting the young pupils.
"It's been fun for me," Allerdings said. "It's been a good way to be able to help the kids out."
Second graders Tyler Larson, Titus Letzring and Cody Anderson said they also enjoyed the sessions with Allerdings.
"He really makes the things we do fun," Larson said. "We were able to count money and race while we were doing it, and that was fun."
"The games we have with the different cents have been fun," Anderson said. "I've liked being able to do it."
Lessmeier said Allerdings has helped provide extra support to students of all abilities in math with his volunteer work, an effort that has helped each child increase their general math skills each day.
"All of us in here think that he's just been awesome," Lessmeier said. "He's worked really well with students that needed an extra hand and those that were able to go beyond the second grade level of math, so he's reached out to all of the students. That's been really great to see."
Lessmeier also said Allerdings has reached out to the young kids in non-academic ways by letting one of the students wear his old jersey each week and giving free passes to football games to the children. He also gave each student a camoflauged bandana stamped with footballs for Homecoming.
"There's been a lot of bonding between Thomas and the kids this year, and there are a lot of things that he just does on his own initiative," Lessmeier said. "It's easy to tell that he wants to help the kids out."
The Cyclones will spend time with the elementary students at least until the semester, and may choose to spend time with them in the second semester as well. Hammer said he hopes other AHS athletic programs implement their own Big Brother and Big Sister programs throughout the rest of the year, and said the football players will continue to take time to help young kids learn in the future.
"It's been a good experience for everyone," Hammer said. "We definitely want to be able to continue doing this for many more years."