Dec. 15, 2011
Last week members of the Rice women's and men's basketball teams worked around their schedules for finals and practice to visit The Rusk School, a Houston ISD elementary school located just east of downtown. The Owls left such an impression, the students at Rusk invited the Rice scholar-athletes back this week as the school held its Christmas show and holiday party.
Behind the efforts of the Rice Student-Athlete Advisory Council, the Owls returned to The Rusk School Thursday in force. In addition to members of the Rice women's basketball team, also spending their afternoon at the school were members of the Rice swimming team along with representatives from the Rice baseball and football teams.
Through SAAC, the Owls came bearing gifts. Each student in Rachel Wade's fifth grade class received a Rice Athletics' t-shirt. The fifth-graders also each received an AccuShot22 basketball donated by Ricky Pierce, the 1982 Southwest Conference Player of the Year during his playing career at Rice who went on to have a stellar career in the NBA.
"It has been really amazing to have the athletes out here, especially since not a single one of my students knew what Rice was," Wade said. "We want to expose our students to college. We are trying to motivate them in class.
"We had three Rice basketball players come last week and just the difference in how my students have worked in the last week has been pretty amazing. They keep asking if this is the way work would look like for someone attending college. It has just been great having the athletes out here. They have been able to show our students what they can do."
Wade, who is in her second year as a Teach for America corps member in Houston, has family ties to the Rice athletic program. Her sister Becky Wade is an All-America cross country athlete at Rice.
During the Owls' visit to The Rusk School on Thursday, they spent time with the fifth graders on the playground playing football and tag, shooting hoops and just sharing time. The Owls also attended the fifth graders' Christmas show and then gave out the t-shirts and basketballs.
"This has really helped to make us have a good Christmas," Wade said. "They don't want big things. They just want simple things, to have people come and give attention when they don't get a lot of attention ... and to play. Now we have all these new balls to play with during recess.
"It is so nice of them to give their time. It really means a lot to us."
In the words of the fifth graders at The Rusk School ...
"Today with the team was fun. They are great players with special abilities. It was fun to play with them and teach me more."
"The Rice students were really great. Learning about them, the swimming team, the basketball team. I wish they could come back because we are having so much fun. They are really cool. We learned a lot about them and they were really nice to us."
"The Rice students have special abilities and I wanted to know more about them. They are really fun. They are active."
"They motivated us to want to go to college. They played with us today and it was really cool."
"I think they are good players and swimmers. I didn't know they were swimmers at first. When I grow up, I really want to go to Rice. I would really like to go there and swim."
"They are really good. They really inspire me when I grow up to go to college."
"It was the best day. I thought they were just visitors from Rice. I didn't know they were athletes until the teacher sent two kids down to get the Rice team."
"At first I didn't know they did sports. It was kind of awesome."