Sometimes it’s the message, but more times than not it’s the messenger who helps students find themselves and discover new paths. Those are the hopes with a new community service activity from the East Tennessee State Men’s Basketball team as they meet with Towne Acres students on Friday mornings for a session they call Real Talk.
Players from the team have made four visits to Towne Acres this school year and during each visit different players discuss the importance of hard work, making good grades, and being a good citizen and how important those things are to help the community.
“This program is helping to instill confidence in our students, develop leaders, and strengthen our existing relationship with ETSU,” Towne Acres Principal Josh Simmons said. “The players come in and share a little bit about their childhoods and school experiences with students to help them gain an understanding of good citizenship.”
During each visit, the players go over a word of the day and discuss the meaning. Most recently, the word was courage. But perhaps the most powerful aspect of the program is when the students are able to ask questions. While the seriousness of the questions may vary, the players often relate to things they are experiencing now.
Last Friday, ETSU graduate student Brock Jancek stopped by to speak with the students. Jancek graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Civil Engineering in May 2022 and will spend a graduate season playing for ETSU. He said he enjoyed his visit and spending time with the students.
“We just want to talk to them on a personal level and let them get to know some of the student-athletes in their community,” Jancek said. “Maybe they’ll meet an athlete that they see as a role model or someone who can set a good example for them and give them a person to look up to and admire.”
“We all sat in their shoes before, and we sat there and listened to someone who had an impact on us,” Jancek continued. “So, to be able to reciprocate that to the younger generation is really special for us.”
Towne Acres 5th grader Brock Ragan has attended a lot of ETSU basketball games and said he really admires the Buccaneers.
“It’s pretty cool for them to come in here and share their stories and experiences,” Ragan said. “They’ve talked a lot about believing in yourself and putting in the work to be successful. I really look up to them, and it’s helpful to hear about the path they took to be a student-athlete, which I hope to be one day. They've just encouraged us to follow our passions.”
Towne Acres 3rd grader Colton Barnett said that he also admires the ETSU basketball team and looks forward to them stopping by on Fridays.
“It’s really cool,” Barnett said. “You get to meet the players, and they tell us how they accomplished their goals and they encourage us to do the same.”