Athletes become storytellers for local schools

Freshman skiier, Taylor Guetschow surrounded by first graders of Turnagain Elementary. Photo by Ashley Smith/TNL

Reading, children and Seawolves, oh my! Friday, April 13, marked the 13th annual “Reading with the Seawolves” event. In what little spare time they have, 38 student athletes from UAA’s various sports programs traveled to Turnagain Elementary School to read with children.

“The student athletes love it; they have a great time,” said Dede Allen, Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) staff director who organizes the event each year. “I think it’s a positive experience for the schools when we come because we have a cross-section. We have males and females and representatives from every sport on that bus.”

Over the last 13 years, Seawolf athletes have been to 15 elementary schools around Anchorage, according to Allen. Each year the SAAC chooses a different school to visit. Allen originally tried to organize two “Reading with the Seawolves” events each year, but with the athletes’ busy schedules in sports and schoolwork, one event proved to be enough for representatives from every sport to attend.

During “Reading with the Seawolves” the athletes are distributed to different classrooms to read to children in various age groups from kindergarten to sixth graders. With the older grades, children are encouraged to read to the athletes also.

“It’s very cool just to have the special attention — but to have it from University athletes is really special,” said Mora Van

UAA sophomore Brett Cameron of the Seawolf hockey team reads to anxious first graders. Photo by Ashley Smith/TNL

Alstine, first grade teacher at Turnagain Elementary. “And with the different sports too, you could see that with each different sport they heard they really kind of lit up.”

Van Alstine’s first grade class was visited by Jordan Martin, women’s basketball; Taylor Guetschow, women’s alpine skiing; Cody Parker, javelin thrower for track and field; and Brett Cameron, hockey. Van Alstine said it was nice to have so many athletes come this year because the children were able to be in smaller groups and really connect with the athletes.

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“It was wonderful! We got some books, we talked about how every kid’s different, and all the kids got to learn about different sports,” Guetschow said after the event. “They were excited to talk about their sports and it’s cool to see how much they looked up to us.”

Some Seawolf athletes also hosted a blood drive Thursday, April 12, and are rumored to be trying to organize another reading event at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center April 21. UAA gymnasts help with the Special Olympics Bowling Tournament each fall, and many of the other sports programs independently organize volunteering around Anchorage throughout the school year.