McDaniel College football players have had a new playbook since January and the results have been pretty impressive.
As mentors for eighth-grade students at East Middle School, the players have helped students with their homework, and more, in a program that has brought the student-athletes to the Westminster school several times a week.
"All the kids that have mentors look forward to it. They get so excited about it," eighth-grade math teacher Angela Springer said. "I could say it a million times on how to do it, and the football players say it, and they get it."
Many of the students, in fact, have seen their grades improve with the mentorship, Springer said.
"It has done wonders for them," Springer said. "They have done so much better. One (math) student has gone from an 'F' to an 'A.' "
Seventh-grade math teacher Jennifer Goffena has also seen a new confidence in her mentored students.
"Since starting the mentoring program, they have a better attitude," Goffena said. "It opens up a door for me."
McDaniel football linebacker coach Matt Hutchings was all smiles listening to the teachers' comments. He said all sport teams at McDaniel are encouraged to get involved with the community.
He said he approached local middle schools to see how his team could help, and East Middle's Assistant Principal Kim Corbel eagerly accepted the offer.
"They really need that positive role model in their lives," Corbel said of the students.
She said the young students can relate to the college athletes, in part, because they see them as students, too.
"They're not adults," she said of the players. "(They) know what it is like."
Though he's a junior at McDaniel, Tim McLister admits that he sometimes stumbles over the school work — a trait that the East Middle youngsters might relate to. But he stresses the need to work hard, and figure it out.
"I think it is a fun experience," McLister said of working with the middle school students. "You're not just helping them ... it gives you a good feeling."
East Middle eighth-grader Maggy Heim, 14, has been seeing a mentor every day since the program started. It's been very helpful, she said.
"I was struggling in social studies a bit," Maggy said. "Last semester, working with a mentor, I went from an F to a B. If you need any help, they're always here."
Every Monday through Thursday, four or five players typically work for an hour with students after school, Hutchings said. If the mentors and students finish the work needed to be done before the hour is through, they can play basketball in the gym or outside.
"The players enjoy coming down and helping," Hutchings said. "They've done an amazing job with it. They're a great group of guys."
Nicholas Valori, a McDaniel freshman, didn't hesitate to volunteer for the mentoring program.
"I think it is great to just help out the students," the Green Terror quarterback said. "I wanted to get involved with the community. It's a great opportunity to help kids."
The mentoring program was in its waning days this past week, but Hutchings and Corbel are planning to continue it next year. While he would like it to start in the fall, the team has its commitment to football to think about, too.
"We want a good friendship between the middle school and football team," Hutchings said. "We want it to continue."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun