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Mesquite High student-athletes paying it forward

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A Mesquite High soccer player reads a book to a group of second graders at Islands Elementary.Positive role models can help young children stay on the right path. They inspire good behavior and habits as well as promote a favorable environment for all. Student-athletes at Mesquite High School are modeling good behavior to second grade students at seven elementary schools across the Gilbert Public Schools district. 

“It is just so heartwarming. We know our student-athletes in the classroom and on the field, but to see them let their guards down with the kids is really cool,” said Lizette Pierce, a Spanish teacher and Cross Country coach at Mesquite High. 

Pierce co-facilitates the 2nd & 7 program on campus. The national program, created by three former Ohio State Football players, encourages student-athletes to make a difference in their communities by tackling literacy. Student-athletes in the program visit second grade classrooms and read books that promote valuable life lessons to young students.

“The most recent one that I did was about being respectful to others in the classroom, and it relates back to soccer, because you have to have good sportsmanship towards other teams, the refs and players,” said Allison Eske, a senior at Mesquite High and a soccer player.

A Mesquite High soccer player signs books for second grade students at Islands Elementary.The life lessons in the books not only leave an impression on the younger kids, but the older ones as well.

“At the end of the day, we’re supposed to have fun. I think it reminds me of that, because these kids have no care in the world. They just want to play. It brings me back to the basics that this is the game that I love, and I just want to play,” said Peter Villanez, a senior at Mesquite High and a baseball player. 

Mesquite High sports teams participate in the program during their off season. It’s an opportunity for them to take part in service and share the joys of reading. The books donated by 2nd & 7 are part of ‘The Hog Mollies’ series and include a pledge reminding second graders to read every night, do their homework, respect their teachers and classmates, work hard at school and do the right thing. Every student gets to keep their very own copy of the book. Over half a million books have been donated through the program across 26 states. 

This is the third year that Mesquite High students have been involved in the 2nd & 7 program. Pierce and the students would like to see the program expand on the campus in the future, whether that’s increasing the number of school visits or including more teachers. Pierce would even like to have a reading challenge and invite the elementary school kids to attend sporting events on campus. When it comes to more schools getting involved, Mesquite High soccer players and second graders at Islands Elementary for a group photo.Mesquite High welcomes the idea.

“It’s a great way to interact with the kids and meet them. I think it would be fun for them to not only see Mesquite students, but all of the other high schools in our district,” Eske said.

High school seniors who participate in the program also have the opportunity to win a scholarship from 2nd & 7. The scholarships reward seniors for demonstrating what it means to pay it forward. Recipients also make the commitment to continue serving others beyond high school. 

To learn more about Mesquite High, schedule a school tour or enroll today!

Story and Photos by Kailey Latham