Vikings hit the books
by Joey Martin - posted Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 @ 2:25 pm
Some Vidalia High School athletes are spending weekdays involved in overtime — in the classroom.
Vidalia High assistant boys basketball coach Damus Smith decided five weeks ago to hold a study class before basketball practice to allow student-athletes time to spend extra time on their studies.
"I've been wanting to do this for a while," Smith said. "I told (boys basketball coach Robert) Coach Sanders that this was going to be the year. A lot of our guys spend a lot of wasted time after school waiting on basketball practice. Some do not have transportation and their parents do not come get them until after practice. So I decided to use that time to work with them on academics."
Smith holds the class in his homeroom.
"We're just trying to keep their grades up," Smith said. "We actually have some straight-A students in this study, while some of the others need the work to pull up their grades. Since we started this program I have seen tremendous improvement from these athletes in the classroom."
Vidalia principal Rick Brown said Smith and the class are a major asset for Vidalia High.
"Basketball takes up a lot of time for two semesters and any extra help and encouragement we can give is a bonus," Brown said. "And this is available for anybody. This is not a baby-sitting service, these students come in and work."
The numbers vary, but Smith has had 20 students in class, which starts at 3:30 p.m. and goes up to basketball practice just before 5 p.m.
"It's really helped the freshmen because they have just moved up from the junior high and they went right into football practice, so it's been a tough adjustment," Smith said.
Each student has a planner and their teachers will fill out the planner or tell Smith what they are working on or what assignments or tests are upcoming so he can concentrate on that.
"I have had great faculty support," Smith said. "All the teachers share with me what they are doing."
Smith said teachers Patricia West, Kelly Chung, Jeanne Beach Carol Ledord, David Troutman and Ollie King have all assisted with the class at one time or another,
Darius Jefferson received the first reward for most improvement.
Smith said Wal-Mart and Vidalia Market supplied gift cards for supplies and snacks for the program.
"I want to keep this going," Smith said. "And I welcome any student who wants to receive some tutoring and help. I'm hoping it will grow. It's tough during football because it starts right after school, but we will figure out some way to help during that time next year. And I believe this will help these kids throughout high school and into college. When you play sports at the next level, you have to attend a study hall. This will help these kids when they get to college whether they play sports or not."