Berkeley football players help high school athletes tackle homework,
Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs
-- The University of California, Berkeley, may be an easy stroll
from Berkeley High School, but many young athletes there think
higher education is beyond their grasp.
as spring football practice starts up, a couple dozen UC Berkeley
athletes - most of them football players - are teaming up with
football players from Berkeley High, not only to help improve
the younger athletes' grades, but to introduce them to the wide
world of educational opportunities.
Herb Simons is the driving force behind a new course at UC Berkeley's
Graduate School of Education called "Teaching One-on-One:
Principles of Tutoring and Mentoring."
a sports fan who chairs the Language, Literacy and Culture division
of the education school, hopes for a big win connecting Cal
football players interested in education careers with the teenagers
they mentor and tutor, kids at academic risk.
fall, said Simons, Berkeley High's freshman football team begins
with about 50 players. The roster dwindles to half by the end
of the season because so many players fail to maintain the minimum
2.0 grade point average required for athletic participation.
reason for this lack of academic success is that the joy and
excitement of sports participation and its extrinsic rewards
are hard to match in the academic domain, where the rewards
are few and far between, especially for students doing poorly,"
wrote Simons in a proposal for his course.
twice a week, about a dozen Berkeley High athletes are bussed
to Cal's Memorial Stadium, a local landmark where, for decades,
many athletes' dreams have taken shape and come true. Sometimes,
the teenagers and their tutors saunter off in pairs to study
in the stands above the field, or hunker down in a coach's office
or in the locker room. There, they absorb the atmosphere of
collegiate athletics while digging into academics.
often, UC Berkeley's football players sit with their young counterparts
at round tables, turning the stadium's Club Room into a classroom.
the watchful gaze of a stuffed bear poised majestically on his
hind legs, with posters of teams and play action dotting the
walls, they work on study skills and textbook reading strategies.
They learn time management techniques, goal setting, better
writing skills and how to anticipate test questions. Their reading
comprehension is boosted through previewing, reading and reviewing.
a good way for our guys to see how they can affect someone's
life," said Courtney Wolf, 24, head manager of the UC Berkeley
football team and a former field hockey player. "For some
of them it hits home: This kid could be me."
a focus group after the same course last fall, one tutor said
he bonded with his young charge because they shared the experiences
of high school and football. Another tutor advised his high
school counterpart to concentrate on grades first, then football.
Still another tutor said he wished he'd had a program like this
in high school.
materials on athletics help the young students relate not just
to the tutor, said Simons, but to the academic subjects of the
program. Assignments may include reading Sports Illustrated
features or analyzing articles about the value of competitive
recent sunny afternoon, six of the Berkeley High students showed
up for their academic practice.
hard to compete with other sports activities and the lure of
a spring-like day, said Bruce Smith, a graduate student and
former high school English teacher who is the course liaison
with Berkeley High.
getting information about the program distributed to students
in a large school like Berkeley High is tough.
so, said Smith, the program is making inroads.
achievement is more important to a lot of these guys than it
was when they started," Smith said, noting that the youths
now have tangible role models for what they hope to become on
the playing field - and in a university classroom.
course is supported financially by a grant from the University
of California Office of the President and the Berkeley Pledge.