ROUSES POINT - Robb Garrand is proud of the collaboration he has been able to create between athletes and students.
As both principal of Rouses Point Elementary School and coach of the boys varsity basketball team for the Northeastern Clinton Central School District, Garrand coordinates the Sports Buddy Program that just wrapped up its second year of operation. He implemented the program when he took on the role of principal last year, and said it's a program he's seen beneficial for all involved.
"It's a nice connection and a great way of providing mentorship to our younger students," said Garrand.
Students are referred to the program by teachers and parents, Garrand explained, mainly to provide them with additional positive role models in their lives. They meet in the elementary school gymnasium once a week after school during the winter sports season, which usually lasts from December through February, he said. The children pair up with their buddies and work on homework, listen to stories and have free time to play sports after. The get-together is wrapped up each time with a discussion about being a "good buddy."
The relationship is a symbiotic one, Garrand added, with the athletes getting just as much out of it as they put in.
"It's a nice character education piece of giving back to the community," said Garrand. "They're able to instill in them that without a great foundation of good character, they won't be able to be productive citizens in their communities in the future."
Often times, people can get the impression older students wouldn't be interested in participating in such a program and consider it more of an extra chore, Garrand said. That's not the case with these students, however.
"They look forward to this and they're actually bummed now that it's ended," said Garrand.
High school senior and basketball team member Casey Letourneau has participated in the program both years and said he enjoys sharing with the kids what he's learned from growing up.
"I think it's really good," Letourneau said of the program. "It's a chance to get out and help younger kids. I know they don't always understand what they do affects others but since I've been through it, I can teach them."
Douglas Roberts, a second-grader, said this was his first year attending Rouses Point Elementary and being in the program. It's something he wants to do again next year.
"I like it. I really liked playing basketball," he said.
Fifth-grader Spencer Parsons appreciated the mentoring he received from his sports buddy, NCCS sophomore Steve Carder, also a member of the basketball team.
"I think it was a very good opportunity when I got asked to [be in the program]," Parson said. "I think it's fun because I'd like to become better at sports and become more active."
"It's good for little kids to meet new people and it's good to show them how respectful we are to each other," said Carder, who participated in the program for the first time this year. "I never had a program like this when I was a kid, and it's good for them to see how there's a lot of responsibility on you in high school."
"I've had a lot of fun; I'd definitely do it again next year," he added.
This year, Garrand said he was able to involve members of the NCCS hockey team as mentors. In the future, he'd like to coordinate with other coaches and their teams to keep the program going year-round.
"It's very easy to understand that they're making a difference," said Garrand.