Getting value out of community service and providing a valuable service are at the center of the Clarke University men's basketball community service program. And for the past four years, Coach Jerry Drymon's student-athletes have offered their services to Fulton School in Dubuque. The results in the classroom have been beneficial for both the students at Fulton and for the Crusaders.
"Five years ago we did two community service projects and I really don't think our players got a lot out of it," said Drymon. "I want our players and those we are working with to come away with value from our service projects and I think that's happening at Fulton. I think it's important for the guys to really gain something from their experience."
Drymon first approached then-Fulton Principal Jean McDonald four years ago to offer his team's services to the school and its students, and Clarke's team began working with two teaches. Today, members of Drymon's squad assist in eight classrooms. Drymon's wife, Kari, a teacher at Fulton, helps coordinate the program.
"The kids at Fulton love having the basketball players come listen to them read," said Fulton teacher Emilie Foust. "It gives the kids a very authentic audience to practice their reading. They also love listening to the "real" basketball players read to them. I think it's great that they see sports figures doing academic type things such as reading and enjoying this time together at school. In addition some will pick out books throughout the week to share with the players the next time they're here."
Reading is just a part of what Drymon's players do at Fulton.
"Our players have worked with mentoring and behavioral kids, special education, math and preschool," said Drymon. "And in the past we also were involved with PE and music.
The Crusaders have had a great impact at Fulton.
"Fulton teachers and staff love having the Clarke Basketball players come to Fulton," said Principal Chris Nugent. First of all, they provide valuable mentors that our students can look up to. Secondly, they provide support for teachers giving them an extra hand in the classroom. Fulton students love to read to the players. They like the attention and the Clarke players give their reading purpose. The Clarke players are valuable mentors to our students. They are good role models and model good manners nod respect for our students."
On December 4, Clarke's men's basketball team hosted Fulton Night at the Robert and Ruth Kehl Center. Students and family from Fulton were in the crowd and a student choir from Fulton began the game by singing the national anthem. The Crusaders treated the students to an 86-55 Clarke win.
Clarke's involvement with Fulton is part of the university's involvement in the NAIA Champion of Character initiative.