Miege football seniors inspire St. Agnes students
by Jessica Langdon
ROELAND PARK — It’s 8 a.m. on a rare day off from school.
So where do you find the senior members of Bishop Miege High School’s football team?
Still in school — just not their own school.
Even though parent/teacher conferences meant no classes at the Roeland Park high school on Oct. 25, most of the seniors on the team rolled out of bed early anyway, dressed in khakis and football jerseys, and headed to the school next to their own — St. Agnes Grade School.
Senior John Fisher admits he would have slept in if the call hadn’t come for the players to hit the ground running.
But he happily sacrificed a couple hours of sleep to visit younger students.
“I heard that we were going to read to the kids, and my aunt’s a kindergarten teacher — and I do that a lot of times for service hours,” John said. “So I was kind of excited because it’s a lot of fun.”
He and a group of second-graders read aloud together.
“It gets everyone involved and, if they don’t know a word, they can hear you say it and then they say it,” he said. “It helps them learn the word.”
The Miege students walked into their morning knowing only that they’d work with students. They were game for anything, St. Agnes principal Mary Bachkora said.
And that turned out to be a good thing.
A bit of everything
Mitch Wille sat in on his sister Ella’s fifth-grade class, while some of his teammates tried their hand at some “pinball soccer” in Phys. Ed.
Those who happened to be St. Agnes alums and were already skilled in the game made sure to play gently with the kindergartners. But it was a different story when the fifth-graders vied for victory.
“I had a great time,” said Miege senior Montell Cozart. “I did a play in seventh-grade history class. We kind of did a little act where all the guys changed their voice, kind of did a high-pitched type thing, and had the kids laughing.”
Laughs spilled into Michele Sediqzad’s middle-school science class, as well, where seniors Dante Hutton, Spencer Redmond and Alec Friesen literally stepped into a science experiment.
All three did a minute’s worth of “step-ups” on tall risers before breathing into tubes of blue liquid. Their breath quickly turned the substance yellow, demonstrating how the exercise had boosted their respiratory rates and increased their levels of carbon dioxide.
The high school students were good sports — and a hit with the younger kids, Sediqzad said.
“It’s almost like a celebrity’s here,” she said. “They’re really enjoying having these older kids they go watch every Friday [on the football field] come into their classroom and talk to them.”
Anne Wille, a Title I teacher at St. Agnes and the mother of football player Mitch, has been kicking around this idea for a while — with plans for even more interaction between the schools soon.
“We back up to Miege, and we have kids that need help after school with homework — and just need a big brother in their life,” she said. “Every day we see a kid who could use someone that makes them feel good.”
Working with Miege, she’s started stitching together plans for an after- school “study buddy” and mentoring program, which she hopes will begin sometime this month. She plans to assemble twice-a-week opportunities in six-week blocks to foster bonds between pairs of Miege and St. Agnes students, and hopes Miege students will consider signing up.
Teenagers can provide a listening ear, support and inspiration, she said, and mentoring is a good way to share talents.
Many members of the football team are National Honor Society students, said Wille, and seeing an athlete like Montell taking school seriously and heading to college can show younger students the world is full of opportunities to “be cool and smart.”
In the meantime, Wille was eager to get the football team into St. Agnes during the season.
“We’ve really been pushing these boys on the football team to get out and give back,” she said.
And knowing that some of their biggest fans walk the halls of St. Agnes made it hard for the seniors to refuse.
“Our kids go to the football games,” said Wille. “They talk to me every day — ‘What’s up at Miege?’ ‘How’s your son doing?’ ‘How’s the football team?’”
‘We care about them’
Cori Meurer, a senior manager for the football team, enjoys working with kids and was happy to take Wille up on the morning of volunteer work.
“I really want them to get that we care about them,” she said.
The principal and teachers were so impressed with the way the visitors introduced themselves and worked with kids of all ages, they look forward to their return.
“They are great role models,” said Bachkora.
She hopes her students learn from the visitors “that there are lots of young people who make really good choices, and that there are lots of ways to give back to their community and lots of ways to live their faith — and these young men and women are examples of that.”