Dec. 31, 2001
Three days a week, Florida State basketball players exercise something other than their court skills, they help exercise the minds of children at Gilchrist, Carolyn Brevard, and Bond elementary schools through a program called Champions Read.
During the months of October and November, each student-athlete, as well as the coaching staff, visited kindergarten through third grade classrooms, reading books and sharing their thoughts on the importance of education.
Coach Robinson began the Champions Read program in 1997 — his first year as coach of the Seminole men’s basketball team.
When the semester ended in December at the players had to focus on exams, Robinson himself made it a priority to visit the classrooms in the absence of his players.
Sophomore guard Ryan Lowery, who has participated in the program in both of his first two years as a member of the team, had difficulty choosing the exact words to describe the profound impact this experience has had on him.
Lowery said: “One of life’s greatest joys is giving. It gives me such a great feeling knowing that I am doing something positive for the community. I’m teaching these kids the importance of reading and getting an education.”
Lowery relates to these students and sees himself as a child in many of them. He wants to instill in these children that their education is equal to what they may be able to accomplish in collegiate or professional sport. Not every student-athlete may have the opportunity to play at the college or professional level. Therefore, he emphasizes the importance of reading and writing.
For two years, Lowery has participated in the Champions Read program, and he has also extended his efforts through the CARE Program, Students Supporting Students, where he performs the same function.
Junior forward, Mike Matthews has interacted with the students in the Champions Read program for three years. He believes the year-end visit the entire team makes to a chosen school has the biggest affect on him and the students.
Matthews’ message to the children in simple and direct: “Choose your own plan, don’t let people dictate what you do. Take your future upon yourself and remember to remain focused. You can accomplish whatever you think you can.”
Like Lowery, Matthews also relates to how these students feel when the team members visit the different classrooms. He remembers former FSU basketball player Chuck Graham speaking to his class when he was a student at Blountstown Middle School.
The Champions Read program extends throughout the entire basketball season and concludes in April. The team concludes each year by choosing where it will spend one day reading to the children playing basketball, answering questions and celebrating the efforts of the Champions Read program.