For the 163 summer school students at Westside Elementary, baseball has helped to keep them focused and motivated.
Summer school principal Susan Stambaugh has implemented a theme for summer school based on America’s pastime as a way to remind students that practice and extra work are necessary to reach goals.
“They understand they have to work for something,” she said.
Stambaugh said it’s important the students don’t feel like summer school is a punishment. She wants them to view it as an opportunity to learn and catch up with the rest of their classmates.
“Sometimes you need to take a little time to get where you want to be,” Stambaugh said.
Summer school kicked off with a visit from players of Powell’s Babe Ruth league throwing out first pitches at Westside. Students were then able to take a “victory lap” around the bases and receive high fives from the ballplayers.
Powell’s American Legion team, the Pioneers, stopped by Westside Friday morning to stress the importance of practice at an awards assembly.
Each Pioneer player introduced himself and discussed aspects of their game they still need to work on and improve, demonstrating that practice is an ongoing process, even for older kids. The Pioneers then took turns handing out awards to students.
Students are incentivized by baseball-themed awards they can earn by collecting enough stars that equal “home runs.” The prizes include baseballs signed by Powell Pioneers players, inflatable bats, T-shirts, helmets and more.
Incoming fifth-grader Ethan Wardell said baseball has made summer school more enjoyable.
“I think it’s good that they have a theme,” Wardell said. “You have another thing to think about that’s fun.”
Wardell, 10, plays catcher, shortstop and his favorite position, pitcher in Little League.
“You feel really good when you get those strikes, those outs,” he said.
Wardell is a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and sluggers Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig.
Second graders Steven Stambaugh, Susan’s son, and Hadley Mehling said they like that baseball is a part of school.
“It’s really good because it helps kids learn more because they’re having more fun,” Steven said.
Summer school students got a chance to see baseball up close and personal Friday at the Powell Pioneers’ game against the Douglas Cats. The Westsiders stayed for a couple innings to take in the sights, sounds and a few popsicles.
Josh Ooten, 9, plays third base in Little League and said he studied how Pioneers’ third baseman Grady Sanders handled the hot corner.
Ooten, who is a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ single-A Yakima Bears, said he likes filling out his charts with stars and earning prizes.
The boys aren’t the only ones who are enjoying the fun of hardball.
Kindergarteners Avery Short and Izzy Thormahlen both took home brand-new Slinkies because of their hard work in the classroom.
Stambaugh said the Pioneers’ involvement wouldn’t have been possible without the help of head coach Jason Borders. Vision West donated the popsicles.