Tabor athletes trade playbooks for schoolbooks

? Marion and Hillsboro elementary students connect with sports heroes for reading support.

 Jacob Wright of Newton, freshman defensive back on the Tabor College football team, reads to elementary students as part of the Champions of Character program. This year all Tabor sports teams are participating in the effort. Tabor College photo
Jacob Wright of Newton, freshman defensive back on the Tabor College football team, reads to elementary students as part of the Champions of Character program. This year all Tabor sports teams are participating in the effort. Tabor College photo
Athletes from Tabor College are reading books to elementary school students in Marion and Hillsboro as participants in the NAIA Champions of Character program.

This is the fifth year in a row that athletes from Tabor College have participated in the program, but the first year the entire athletic department has participated in a reading program for local schools.

Each athletic team at Tabor sends eight to 10 athletes to Marion Elementary School on Tuesdays and to Hillsboro Elementary School on Thursdays.

The program began Sept. 17 and runs through Nov. 19.

Karol Hunt, associate athletic director and coordinator for this program, encourages students to participate for various reasons.

?Outreach is an important component of Cham?pions of Character,? Hunt said. ?It?s a focus on campus, but we want to have an impact in the community as well.

?With Tabor being in a rural community, we wanted to develop a Champions of Character program to highlight the resources available to us,? she added. ?That led to forming a reading program for Hillsboro and Marion elementary schools.?

The athletes read books that the NAIA has identified, but some schools also supplement with other quality character building selections.

Evan Yoder, HES principal, said, ?The Champions of Character reading program has been tremendously popular at HES. Our students clamber for the opportunity to sit with their Tabor College athletic heroes and listen to them read during our lunch time. This is a wonderful program.?

Justin Wasmuth, MES principal, agreed with Yoder.

?Our students love having someone that engages them in an activity, like the lunch reading program,? Wasmuth said. ?It does help that they are athletes, but it gives them another role model to look up to and be excited to connect with them.?

Athletes say they appreciate being able interact with students and show them how important reading is to their education.

?Getting the opportunity to read to elementary students is a great way to give back to the community,? said Lauren Massey, Tabor senior softball player. ?Spending time with children around the area was so much fun for both us and them.?

The athletes will continue this program next semester beginning in February.

Tabor has been a Five Star Champion of Character Institution for five consecutive years.

The NAIA Champions of Charac?ter program encourages students to serve the common good and provide servant leadership for those in the community.

The core values for Champions of Character are integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.

 Amber Bonham, a freshman guard from Copan, Okla., shares a book with students. Tabor College photo
Amber Bonham, a freshman guard from Copan, Okla., shares a book with students. Tabor College photo