Jaffrey Grade School students learn and bond with high school athletes 

  • Conant High School student-athletes have Jaffrey Grade School partners for the Conant CARE program. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Conant High School student-athletes have Jaffrey Grade School partners for the Conant CARE program. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Conant High School student-athletes have Jaffrey Grade School partners for the Conant CARE program. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Conant High School student-athletes have Jaffrey Grade School partners for the Conant CARE program. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Conant High School student-athletes have Jaffrey Grade School partners for the Conant CARE program. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Conant High School student-athletes have Jaffrey Grade School partners for the Conant CARE program. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/13/2019 1:51:01 PM

It’s been almost two decades since Nancy Springfield first introduced the Conant Athletes Reading for Enrichment program at Jaffrey Grade School.

And each year, she marvels at the impact it has on both her fourth-grade students and the Conant High School athletes that visit once a month during the school year.

Some of the athletes who take time out of their busy schedules were once in Springfield’s class – like Delaney Beaven.

Beaven, now a senior, has been part of the CARE program for three years and remembers how when she was a JGS student, she so much she looked forward to her partner, Brooke Springfield, Nancy’s oldest daughter, coming to the elementary school.

“She inspired me to go and play more sports and showed me how important sports were,” Beaven said. “You look up to them.”

The program runs from September through May, typically on the second Friday. After getting to know her students through the first few weeks of school, Springfield will partner one of the Conant athletes with one of her students, a pairing that will be the same for the entire school year. Springfield thinks it’s important to have the one-on-one time with an older role model, because it allows her students to get comfortable and build a relationship – some that extend beyond the classroom.

“The older kids benefit just as much as the younger kids,” Springfield said. “They love to take on that big brother, big sister role.”

The Conant students are only there for a 45-minute session, but it allows for time that is both fun and educational.

“It’s crazy how close you can get to the kids going there just once a month,” Beaven said.

The program has a language-arts based concept, but Springfield always gears it toward whatever curriculum they are working on in class. There have been math games mixed in working on multiplication and division, as well as craft projects – but all geared toward learning.

Fourth-grader Donte Ek has enjoyed his monthly meeting with Scott Lebrecque because “he’s funny, nice and kind.”

Nicholas Roberts, whose CARE buddy is Garrett Cournoyer, thinks it's great that he got to take part in the program as one of Springfield’s students.

“It’s pretty cool. No one else does it,” Roberts said.

CARE grew out of a project Springfield developed during a summer course at Keene State College while working toward her masters degree. The directive was to come up with a program that would benefit the community, and Springfield thought building a connection between the younger kids and high school students could create a lasting effect – like it has so far for Marybeth Tresider.

When she was younger, Tresider used to give up easily, but her CARE partner Liz Gonyea gave her some sound advice.

“She told me to never give up and when you want to give up, count to 10, take a couple deep breaths and try again,” Tresider said.

Tresider said one day she wants to play field hockey at Conant like Gonyea and be on the other side of the program.

Hannah Shea gets a visit from Mariah Chamberlain each month and even went to the Hoops for Hope game to watch her play. She looks up to Chamberlain and the program has made Shea want to play basketball.

Springfield remembers the first year of the program because that was the year Stephen Record was in her class. Record, who passed away during his junior year in 2007, was one of the first athletes to participate in both capacities. Since then, Springfield has seen many of her former students return in the mentoring role, like Conant sophomore Abby Wheeler. They understand the impact it had when they were 9 or 10 years old and want to provide the same kind of experience.

“It was always the highlight of my month,” Wheeler said. “I always really looked forward to my partner coming and now I see how excited the kids are.”

Wheeler said during the time she reads articles from kids-centric newspapers with her partner, talks about her sports teams and tries to have a little fun.

“You can’t just goof off with the kids. You have to be a good role model because there’s a responsibility that comes with it,” Wheeler said.

All four of Springfield’s children have participated as high school athletes, including Peyton who is a junior this year.

“I wasn’t able to be in my mom’s class in fourth grade, but I knew about the program and all the athletes because of my siblings,” Peyton said. “But it’s about setting a good example because she wants the kids to see what it’s like to be a high school athlete.”

There is no formal application process for Conant students. Springfield gets recommendations for the following year from participants and it really comes down to how many students she has and how many have graduated from the year before.

“Kids will also reach out and ask about it,” Springfield said. “And once they do it one year, they come back every single year after that.”

To cap off the program, the Conant students and Springfield’s class will head to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game on Wednesday morning. The day, which includes schools from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, will include interactive exhibits on the concourse and a pre-game educational program.

“I try to pick kids that will be good role models,” Springfield said. “I just love the connection between the kids and how the younger students have someone to look up to.”

Beaven, who has now seen both sides of CARE, she knows just how important the program is.

“They give me motivation to be a better person,” she said. “And the kids get to see a group of people who are succeeding in more than one thing, both in school and athletics.”


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