Academics over athletics: New USD 259 program for students

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - USD 259 has partnered with Wichita middle schools to put the "student" back in student athletes. The program's director says this new initiative is meant to educate kids on what it takes to survive after pro ball.

"They are competing on the football field to start the school year and now we're competing in the classroom," said director William Polite.

The Academic and Behavior Challenge is set to encourage kids to not only excel on the field but also in the classroom. Currently there are 400 Wichita middle schoolers enrolled in the program.

"You guys are in a great situation here to have people in front of you like this," explained Polite to a room full of Brooks Middle School students. "They are right here to help you reach that goal of that 3.0, perfect attendance and that behavior challenge."

This is the first USD 259 program that focuses on student athletes. Brooks Middle School principal Ben Mitchell, played sports in college and also played for the Chicago Bulls. Brooks said one of the few things that lasted through that process was his education.

"Are they succeeding and excelling in their 50's? Or are they still living in hoop dreams from back in the day," said Mitchell. "There ain't no credits in recess."

All Wichita middle school football players are eligible to enroll in the mentoring program which is held during the school's lunch period.

Mitchell, along with the football coach and the program director say they want their students to set high goals for themselves.

"I think because they think they are what they are on the field, they can come to class and anticipate maybe getting away with a grade without doing the work," said coach Lawrence Allen. "What we're saying is, we don't want them thinking that way."

Allen adds that he is committed to the program and to his players.

"They have used excuses for not being successful; I don't have a good home life, I don't have a dad in my home, I'm being raised by my grandma or I'm a foster kid. I felt like that would be a stepping stone, a motivating factor for you to be successful," said Allen.

Allen, principle and program director agree that often times, students excel as an athlete and not a student. This program seeks to close that gap.

"That effort that these kids give on the field, we want them to give that same effort  in the classroom," explained Allen. "Don't go into a classroom expecting her to give you anything but an opportunity to be the best you can be."

The program also exposes students to local athletes who are excelling at four-year colleges. Plus, star athletes that could not get into a Division 1 school because they didn't make the grades. This program is available to all Wichita middle school football players.

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