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ConVal softball players making a difference at PES

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal sophomore JoEllen Racicot works with third grader Molly Tyle on a worksheet during the Cougars Buddies program last Thursday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal sophomore JoEllen Racicot works with third grader Molly Tyle on a worksheet during the Cougars Buddies program last Thursday.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal senior softball player Maxine Dunn points something out to PES third grader Dhanesh Airi in the fourth Cougars Buddies session last Thursday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal senior softball player Maxine Dunn points something out to PES third grader Dhanesh Airi in the fourth Cougars Buddies session last Thursday.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • PES third grader Tom Sennet gets a little help from ConVal senior Lauren Mackey in Betsy Gordon's class during the What I Need time last Thursday as part of Cougar Buddies.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    PES third grader Tom Sennet gets a little help from ConVal senior Lauren Mackey in Betsy Gordon's class during the What I Need time last Thursday as part of Cougar Buddies.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal senior Ana Hautanen talks with Elli Ward during Cougar Buddies last Thursday. Cougar Buddies is held each Thursday at the elementary school, mixing members of the ConVal softball team and second and third graders during the school's What I Need time at the end of the day. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal senior Ana Hautanen talks with Elli Ward during Cougar Buddies last Thursday. Cougar Buddies is held each Thursday at the elementary school, mixing members of the ConVal softball team and second and third graders during the school's What I Need time at the end of the day.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal senior Marena Brock and PES third grader Rachel Maher go over a problem during the Cougars Buddies program last Thursday.<br/><br/> Cougar Buddies is held each Thursday at the elementary school, mixing members of the ConVal softball team and second and third graders during the school's What I Need time at the end of the day. (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    ConVal senior Marena Brock and PES third grader Rachel Maher go over a problem during the Cougars Buddies program last Thursday.

    Cougar Buddies is held each Thursday at the elementary school, mixing members of the ConVal softball team and second and third graders during the school's What I Need time at the end of the day. (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal sophomore JoEllen Racicot works with third grader Molly Tyle on a worksheet during the Cougars Buddies program last Thursday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal senior softball player Maxine Dunn points something out to PES third grader Dhanesh Airi in the fourth Cougars Buddies session last Thursday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • PES third grader Tom Sennet gets a little help from ConVal senior Lauren Mackey in Betsy Gordon's class during the What I Need time last Thursday as part of Cougar Buddies.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal senior Ana Hautanen talks with Elli Ward during Cougar Buddies last Thursday. Cougar Buddies is held each Thursday at the elementary school, mixing members of the ConVal softball team and second and third graders during the school's What I Need time at the end of the day. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal softball players help Peterborough Elementary School students with their reading as part of the Cougar Buddies program on Thursday, March 28, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • ConVal senior Marena Brock and PES third grader Rachel Maher go over a problem during the Cougars Buddies program last Thursday.<br/><br/> Cougar Buddies is held each Thursday at the elementary school, mixing members of the ConVal softball team and second and third graders during the school's What I Need time at the end of the day. (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

Most high school students can’t wait for the end of the school day.

But each Thursday afternoon, members of the ConVal softball team look forward to finishing their final class for a different reason. That’s because it’s time for Cougar Buddies, a new mentoring program at Peterborough Elementary School that teams players with second and third graders. Today marks the fourth session of the 11-week program.

“When Thursday comes around, it’s like ‘Yeah, it’s little kid day. We get to go to PES and do Cougar Buddies,” said senior Ana Hautanen of Peterborough, who emailed PES Principal Ben Loi to set up the initial meeting.

From 2:30 to 3:05 p.m., the players join students in the classes of Betsy Gordon, Janice LaRoche and Carter Judkins, all third grade teachers, and Margaret Blackburn — the only second grade class involved — for What I Need time.

The idea for the program first came up last year, but it never got off the ground. But this January ConVal coach Jim Coppo and Hautanen met with Loi to see if there would be any interest.

“I knew the team was really looking to find any way to give back,” said Hautanen. “We want to be able to promote athletics and good grades.”

Loi was behind the program and he discussed it with Kathie Morrocco, the school’s reading specialist and a Title 1 teacher. Morrocco came up with a few ideas, but always circled back to have it involve reading.

“We were looking for the best mesh of what they could do and what would be best for our students,” said Morrocco.

According to Morrocco, second and third grade is a crucial time in a child’s reading development and with the WIN time slot working for the student athletes, the decision was simple.

“I just want to work with the younger kids and have that feeling of helping them,” said senior Lauren Mackey of Dublin. “I hope they benefit from this.”

After getting a few teachers on board, the program began March 14, one week late thanks to an early March snowstorm. And from that first day, it has been more than anyone could have asked for.

“The kids, the adults and the high school students have made this a real positive experience,” said Loi. “It’s better than I anticipated.”

There are three players in each of the four classrooms and they join the same classroom every week. It allows not only the PES students to become comfortable with the older athletes, but for the softball players to develop relationships with individual students.

“They are great mentors. They interact and take initiative,” said LaRoche. “They need very little prompting from me.”

It took the first week for everyone to adjust, but the last two have been like old friends reuniting. The elementary students really look forward to the program each week, as do the players.

“It’s just great to help them and make a difference in their school day,” said senior Maxine Dunn of Peterborough. “They’re just so excited to learn with us each week. It’s already starting to feel like a friendship.”

They know each other by name and what they’ve been learning about in school. The relationships are starting to grow.

“I don’t know who’s more excited each week, the teachers, the kids or my players,” said Coppo. “If one of these kids can come back as a player down the road and be a part of something like this, it will be the ultimate reward.”

While the program is only a little more than a half hour each week, the progress is already starting to show.

“It took us 10 to 15 minutes to see it start working. This is just exactly what we were hoping for,” said Morrocco. “It’s more than just literacy. That’s a big piece, but it’s so much more than that.”

The What I Need time is a designed block at the end of the school day for teachers to work with students on the aspects of literacy they need help with the most. But it is hard for any teacher to give one on one time to a class full of students. And that is another reason why this program has been such a success.

“It’s like having three other teachers in the room,” said Gordon. “These students have a great attitude and a great work ethic and they’re here to do whatever we need.”

And the help can be with anything. It can be with a certain word, a chapter in a book or really any school work that is presenting a challenge for the young students.

“If we don’t understand a word, they will help us with it,” said third grader Molly Tyle.

“They help us a lot. Any of the questions we don’t know or we are stuck on,” said Zach Allard, also a third grader.

While the players said they wished there was a program like this when they were growing up, they are also glad to be doing something for the future generations of high school students. The hope is for the PES students to remember this experience and pay it forward down the road.

“The feedback I’ve heard has been 100 percent positive,” said Loi. “The kids love having them come in and look forward to it every week.”

On May 6, the PES students will attend the ConVal softball games against Conant under the lights at Adams Playground. Senior Marena Brock designed a t-shirt and the students will be announced just like the players.

“Ten years down the road, we won’t remember the scores of these games, but we will remember the things that are happening with this program,” said Coppo.

And over the next eight weeks, the players will continue their Thursday trips to PES to help in any way they can.

But no matter what happens from here on out, the program is already widely considered a home run.

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