On Monday afternoon, a YMCA group from Dee Elementary School visited the Dee Events Center as part of the I’m Going to College program.
One of the chaperons for the group, Jill Wood, explained that the purpose of the program is to get the children excited about going to college. She said the purpose of the trip to the Dee Events Center was for the children to experience what it was like for students at college.
“We try to get them excited about higher education,” Wood said. “A lot of these kids are first generation (students); they wouldn’t think of (going to college) as something to do, and we’re trying to help them have that vision.”
Upon arriving, the children were greeted by Eric Duft, Weber State University men’s basketball associate head coach, along with several members of the basketball team. After Duft and the players introduced themselves, Duft, center James Hajek and forward Byron Fulton stayed to talk with half of the group, while the other players and coaches there took the younger children out onto the court to play.
Duft started off by telling the children that doing well in school is very important, and that everybody on the basketball team had to do well in school too.
“We have a couple of rules (for the team),” Duft said. “First, you got to practice hard. But the second thing we ask our guys to do, and this is non-negotiable — our guys have to do well in school. If they don’t do well in school, they won’t play on game night.”
Duft continued by saying the goal for the team is for everyone to be able to graduate with a degree. He pointed to Hajek and Fulton as two examples of what the team wants, saying they were both good in the classroom and good on the court.
Duft also talked about how it was important for the players to be responsible about getting their studies done. He told the group that in college, students weren’t always in class all day, so their teachers counted on them to get their homework done on their own time. Duft told the group that as they go through school, they need to be disciplined and study hard even if they were not always right.
“Maybe you won’t get everything right all the time. Maybe you won’t be the best student in class,” Duft said. “But you need to concentrate on being the best student you can be, and do it your very, very best.”
After the children finished listening to the presentation, they were led on a short tour of the Dee Event Center, visiting different places like the training room and the study hall. The group was then led onto the court, where they had a chance to play Lightning and other games with members of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, along with Waldo the Wildcat.
Players and children both went running around the court, laughing and shooting baskets. Some of the players showed off for the group as they performed dunks, layups and half-court shots. Waldo was chased around the court by children looking for high fives or hugs, or trying to grab his ears.
After a few more trick shots, the bus arrived and the group had to leave. Before they left, the children yelled one last thank-you to the team as they walked back through the tunnels to their bus.