“Life changing” is the Northern Oklahoma College motto, and the NOC Maverick basketball men have lived up to that motto by bringing life-changing experiences to Tonkawa Elementary School students.
At least once a month during the academic year—twice monthly outside basketball season—Maverick players visited the Tonkawa Elementary School to interact with 30 boys selected for a mentoring program.
They read to the students and listened to students reading to them. They played cards and board games with the boys. They played basketball at recess. Sometimes they just hung out with the children.
"They are fun to play with," first-grader Marcus Sallee said. Second-grader James Warrior agreed. “They are cool, and it is fun playing basketball with them.”
Fifteen boys from Grades Pre-K-2 and 15 boys from Grades 3-5, who faculty think would enjoy the experience, are selected each year to participate in the program, according to TES counselor Jayme Evans. A different group of students will be chosen next year, she added.
Evans reported, “They’re [the students] constantly asking when the Mavericks are coming back. They would like to have them come every day.”
“Lots of [the players] just like being around kids,” Maverick Head Basketball Coach Donnie Jackson said. “The kids are always fun to be around. There’s always some excitement going on.” The players are impressed with the boys’ enthusiasm.
“I really enjoy spending time with the kids at the elementary school,” said Costa Anderson of Atlanta, Ga. “The kids are so excited to see us and it is a great experience hanging out with them."
Torey Noel of Midwest City commented, “I always have fun with the kids at TES. We play games and read and just have a good time. I look forward to going.”
The Mavericks hosted a two-hour free basketball camp for the boys in the program. Each boy received a t-shirt. “[NOC Language Arts instructor] Stacy Frazier provided complimentary snacks and drinks,” Jackson said. “She says she sees how much her son looks up to the players.
“All the guys were there,” Jackson continued. “We introduced them [the students] to the game and taught them basic fundamentals.” The boys were invited to attend the Mavericks home game against NOC Enid where canned food was collected for the elementary school Fill the Pantry Night.
“They are a lot of fun,” second-grader Armondo Arriaga said about the Mavericks. “The basketball game and camp was cool.”
“What’s really cool is seeing kids in community who remember the coach and players outside of the school day,” Jackson commented. The mentoring program “allows us to give back to kids and lets them know we appreciate them.”
The entire 13-man Mavericks squad participated in the program throughout the year, working around their playing schedule during basketball season. Usually they took their afternoon study hall time, which was structured into their daily schedule, so they did not miss classes or practice time.
“One of my long-stemmed memories from junior college was going to the elementary school and reading to the kids,” Jackson said. “I could see excitement on the kids’ faces. I could make some kind of impact on kids, and I wanted to carry that on when I became a coach.”
He enjoyed mentoring children when coaching in Kansas colleges for about 13 years before coming to Northern last fall. He plans to continue his mentoring program as soon as the players return to the college next fall so they will have more time with the youngsters.
“If we can change one life, then it’s worth it.” Jackson concluded.