Skyline High School Forum – November 2003
By Breanna Sherman
What would seem like an unlikely match-up, a star high school athlete and a child with a learning disability, is what drives the Athletes For Kids program. Started in 2001, this program pairs up Skyline’s athletes with children in elementary schools who are dealing with disabilities. Many children with learning disabilities find it tough in school to interact with their peers. After years of discouragement, they can start to head into depression and get involved in harmful activities. This is the motivation behind this program. The main goal of the athlete is to mentor the child and help build up their self-esteem.
“I can see these kids with special needs and you can tell that they all just want a friend,” said Mark Hanan.
This is Hanan’s second year as a mentor. Dan Strelke, a founding mentor explained the importance of the mentor.
“You are something all his or her peers don’t have”, said Strelke.
The children count on their athletes for a boost of confidence. The mentor creates an encouraging environment for the child, and as a result the child has great respect for this person. Because it is difficult for the children to fit in socially, their mentor can be one of the few friends they have.
“When I get to his house he is already at the door waiting for me to come in. Its like he is waiting for hours. When I leave he won’t say good-bye because he doesn’t want me to leave! He just wants it to go on forever, its like a dream,” Hanan said.
Although the athletes are making a difference in their child’s life, it is the children themselves who are teaching the athletes a far greater lesson.
“It has given me a different view of people. Even if you are different, like the girl I mentor, you can still have so much fun,” said Corinne Fulton.
Fulton is a new mentor. Along with being more open minded, mentors have gained character traits which will help them later in life as well.
“I have learned to be patient and understanding with all types of people. Being a mentor is being a role model to someone, so you have to act like it all the time. It helps me stick to my word because if you don’t your kid could be hurt,” said Strelke.
Along with Strelke, Hanan, and Fulton there are several other Skyline athletes who participate in this program. With the success of the program at skyline, the founder, Ken Moscaret, hopes to continue it on through Washington. Learning from one another, athletes and children are making the world easier for each other.