Trojans Paint a Picture of the Future|
Dec. 9, 2015
Principal Marcia Reed took a seat in the teacher’s lounge of 186th Street Elementary and exhaled after an exhausting day darting around the campus. Not once, however, did a smile leave her face as she reflected on the Trojans' trip to her school for USC Athletics’ 5th Annual Community Bowl.
“My students were so excited just to be a part of something like this,” said Marcia, who is also a major USC supporter. “This is one of those experiences that they will remember for a lifetime.”
What the children will remember are the 130 USC student-athletes that spent an entire Saturday working to spruce up their Gardena elementary school. What they’ll never forget are the conversations and words of encouragement to succeed in the classroom, with the hope that these experience will inspire them to become college students like the ones they interacted with on Saturday.
The day started in grand fashion as the children formed a border along a red carpet to welcome the Trojans. One by one, the Trojans marched off three loaded buses, receiving high fives on their way to the school’s auditorium. The event’s coordinators paired athletes with students, and off they went, grabbing the requisite tools for the 30 tasks completed throughout the day.
The groups of Trojans and Wise Owls, as the elementary school’s mascot is proudly designated, painted murals, dug and planted new gardens and re-tooled the school’s athletic areas. The children also worked through a lesson plan designed to discover more about what the Trojans learn in college and their study habits.
“As educators, we talk to our children about striving for the best and being the best that they can possibly be,” Marcia said. “But having college students come back and preach the same message that we’re saying is so powerful. It becomes believable for them. They end up saying to themselves, ‘Wow, this can be me.’”
Junior attacker Michaela Michael was one of nine USC lacrosse players who gave up a Saturday to be with the elementary school children.
“When I was little, seeing college athletes, especially from a school like USC, was so exciting,” Michaela said. “Just talking to the kids, they think of us as celebrities. Getting to spend time with them is so special.”
Parents of 186th Street Elementary also turned up to see the Trojans interact with their kids, even getting their hands dirty to complete the more complex painting projects. Maribel Ahunada, a parent of 5th-grade triplets at the school, was impressed by the Trojans’ effort in the community.
“These athletes are an inspiration for our kids,” Ahunada said. “For our kids just to see the USC athletes here gives them hope to dream for more. To talk to them, spend time with them, it’s a great inspiration for our kids to see that there’s hope for the future.”
Christopher Downing, a UCLA graduate and Superintendent of LAUSD's Local District South, made a visit to 186th Street on Saturday, too. He came with his daughter, who was raised a Bruin fan because of her father’s allegiance to the school.
But after sharing the day with the Trojans, Marcia caught the young girl telling her father she wanted to attend USC when she grows up.
“We scored,” Marcia said with an exuberant laugh.
After the garden was transformed and all 10 murals dried, the Wise Owls wished the Trojans goodbye with a few tears in their eyes.
“Today was one of those experiences where the Trojans made us feel like we can conquer the world,” Marcia said. “The Wise Owls are going to soar. We want to make the Trojans proud.”