LAURINBURG, N.C. — Every Friday, St. Andrews University student-athletes eat lunch with star students at Covington Street Elementary School. The weekly event is organized by student-teacher Kirsten Farley.
Farley, a senior at St. Andrews and education major is conducting her student teaching at Covington Street with Mrs. Currie in kindergarten. Between lesson planning, teaching and bus duty, Farley was asked to organize the star lunches where students with a special achievement get to eat lunch with someone from the community.
She immediately knew who she wanted for role models, St. Andrews student-athletes. With help from Dr. Liz Hernandez, assistant dean of students, athletes arrive around 11 a.m. every Friday for a nearly two-hour lunch rotating students from first through fifth grades.
As you enter the cafeteria, a shiny bulletin board hangs listing all of the star students and their achievements for the week.
Mrs. Clark wrote that “Collin Williams is a star student because he helped a kindergarten student up after he fell.”
Mrs. Hicks finds that “Nataya Scott is a star student because she has such a positive attitude about her work.”
The list of accomplishments varies for this diverse group of about 20 kids.
After going through the lunch line, star students join four athletes from the women’s basketball team, freshman Cassidy Chipman and seniors Alana Artis, Eboni Surgick and Alexis Redd on stage at the front of the cafeteria.
At first, the table is filled with awkward gazes, but it does not take long for the young stars to warm up to the athletes through the familiar conversation of basketball.
“It’s cool that they see us as a reward,” said Redd.
“We are trying to make a connection early that college is a goal for them,” explained Principal Kristen Broadbelt. “It’s easy for the kids to connect with student-athletes through sports.”
Asking first-graders if they want to go to college receives a lot of head nods and shoulder shrugs. Haley Odom, a first grader, was “having fun talking to the girls.” However, she wants to be a teacher when she grows up so college would be in her future.
Surgick hopes by participating in star lunches that it will encourage the kids “to stay in school and get a great education to pursue their dreams.”
Farley will continue to organize the star lunches during her student-teaching stint. She hopes it not only helps the students, but brings a sense of community involvement to promote education.
“It’s never too early to reach out to kids about college,” Farley said.
Misty McMillan is director of communications at St. Andrews University.