Nitschmann Students Receive an Education at Track & Field Day
Of the 75 smiling faces from Nitschmann Middle School attending Moravian College’s track and field academy Jan. 16, Micah Leonard ’13 remembers one above all the others. As the former Greyhound track standout helped with the high jump, one of four stations set up in the Timothy Breidegam Fieldhouse for the afternoon event, one male student ran up and said, “If I clear this bar, I’m going to come to Moravian!” Leonard recalled.
A few long strides and a big leap later, the boy easily cleared the bar and dropped comfortably into the puffy landing pad below. “You could tell he was totally excited to be here,” Leonard explained.
For the third consecutive year, Moravian’s track and field team hosted a track and field day on campus for a nearby Bethlehem school. In 2012, the team partnered with William Penn Elementary, and the past two years Nitschmann Middle has participated. (To see photos from field day, click here and here.)
This year, there were numerous Moravian student-athletes on hand from the track and field teams, women’s tennis team, and Dawn Ketterman-Benner’s education class, as well as Greyhound track and field coaches present to make the program run smoothly. During the academy, Nitschmann sixth-graders were taught the proper mechanics in the high jump, javelin, long jump and shot put. After a short training session, each student was given an opportunity to try the event twice with his or her marks recorded. At the conclusion of the field day, students were presented certifications, as well as gold medals made of chocolate.
Ketterman-Benner, tennis coach and professor of physical education, credits Leonard for initially getting the program off the ground. “This was really her idea, when she was a student, and I was more than happy to help,” said Ketterman-Benner, co-director of Moravian’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee. “Since then the event has really flourished.”
She also lauded Jesse Baumann, director of the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams, and the Education Department’s Joseph Shosh, chair, and Camie Modjadidi for bringing the event together. Student-athlete Chris Ossont '15 was also instrumental in helping to organize this year's track and field day, said Ketterman-Benner.
During the past two academic years, Moravian has teamed with Nitschmann for a partnership aimed at inspiring sixth-graders to begin thinking and planning for college even as they are beginning their middle school careers. Following a kick-off event in October, the middle schoolers, called “Team Moravian,” toured the Moravian campus to get an up close look at college life.
“This partnership is really fantastic,” Ketterman-Benner explained. “I was there at the kickoff, and you could really see the enthusiasm from their students, as well as our own students.”
Nitschmann’s “Team Moravian” has several upcoming events planned in partnership with Moravian, including a science day, organized by Ed Roeder, associate professor of physics, and a culminating arts day, planned by Kristin Baxter, assistant professor of art, and Joy Ondra Hirokawa, assistant professor of music.
ABOVE: Moravian student-athletes offered helpful advice to the middleschoolers throughout the afternoon.
ABOVE: One Nitschmann sixth-grader takes flight during the high jump station.
Impacting young students in a positive way was exactly what Leonard had in mind when she brought forward the idea for the field day three years ago.
“I really think the program benefits both parties,” she said. “We are giving these kids new opportunities, letting them know they have choices in their lives. At the same time, the students on the track team are getting an opportunity to build a better community. It’s really all about impacting lives, and it’s been a phenomenal experience.”
Leonard can fondly recall how on many occasions she’s heard from students at Nitschmann express their love for Moravian and the enjoyment they’ve had interacting with the College’s student-athletes. It should be noted a good number of sixth-graders proudly wore Moravian-branded shirts. “It’s been great to see this become sort of a tradition for the track and field team,” Leonard concluded.
Likewise, Ketterman-Benner called the field day event a “win-win situation” for Moravian and Nitschmann, adding that she’s seen increased participation from the student-athletes each year. “The energy level was wonderful, and the kids were just so excited, well-behaved and really appreciative,” she said. “I think it is a great way to start the spring semester.
“When you see the smiles and joy on their faces, you know they’ve had a good day.”
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