Horseheads, N.Y. - Hockey players may be regarded as tough, gritty and tenacious on the ice but off the ice they are gentle, amiable and inspirational. Last Monday, following a tough road trip, the Jackals were given an off day. The players could have spent their time catching up on rest, visiting loved ones or taking some personal time. Instead, six Jackals paid a visit to the Center Street Elementary School in Horseheads, NY to kick off the Read and Score with the Jackals Program.
Jordan Pietrus, who created the program three years ago, wanted to find a way to give back to the Elmira community and found an opportunity through Hockey Players for Kids.
“They [Hockey Players for Kids] had some similar programs so I contacted our team to see if they had any contacts in the community,” said Pietrus. “We talked and met the people here at Center Street Elementary School and worked on figuring out something that would work for the Jackals and Center Street [Elementary School].”
Pietrus used the baseline that Hockey Players for Kids had set up and gave birth to the Read and Score Program. It provides a fun way for students to build the fundamental skills that will be necessary for higher learning and basic functioning. Pietrus wanted to create an enjoyable way for students to develop these essential abilities.
The main component of the program revolves around personal reading time.
“Children go home each night and read on their own time and record how much time they spent reading,” said Pietrus. “Their parents have to sign off on it and they bring it in and we log the number of minutes that they read.”
In addition to promoting reading with young students, Pietrus has introduced a new element in the program’s third year.
“This year we added a math and critical thinking component to the Read and Score Program,” said Pietrus. “We are challenging the students to think critically and work on their problem-solving abilities.”
There is a fun incentive for the students who are participating in the program. Starting this Saturday, November 23, students from each grade will be recognized at center ice during Jackals home games for their dedication and commitment to their studies. The weekly acknowledgments culminate in a memorable reward at the conclusion of the Read and Score Program.
“At the end of the program fifteen students from each grade get to play a floor hockey game with the Jackals,” said Pietrus. “It is a lot of fun.”
Pietrus, who graduated from Brown University with a degree in commerce, organizations and entrepreneurship, has been heavily involved in the community since his college days. He recruited some of his teammates this past Monday to participate and enjoy the experience with the young learners.
Rob Bellamy, Jean Bourbeau, Kyle Bushee, Danny Hobbs and Patch Alber joined Pietrus and read to grade 1-4 students in the school’s cafeteria, gym and library. The youthful exuberance gleaming on the faces of the students was beyond description. After reading to the eager listeners each Jackals player answered questions and imparted important life lessons. The students were not the only ones who took something away from the day.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community and it puts everything into perspective,” said Pietrus. “Its very humbling to be here in front of younger kids and see how excited they are to see us and see the smiles on their faces. It goes to show that wins and losses aren’t everything and goals, assists and points aren’t everything. When it comes down to it there is more to life than hockey and this brings you right back down to Earth.”
Although the six Jackals players will never admit it they were heroes in the eyes of the young students at Center Street Elementary School on Monday.