April 17, 2012
BEAUMONT, Texas -
The Montagne Center was filled with the happy faces and excited sounds of young children Tuesday afternoon as Lamar University hosted the annual Cardinal Connection event.
Approximately 1,500 first graders from the Beaumont Independent School District were on hand for the program that encourages children to read. The pupils interacted with the Lamar student-athletes, many of them who had visited their classrooms earlier this year to read to the BISD students.
The Lamar athletic department works with Dr. Shirley Bonton, the deputy superintendent for curriculum, instruction and elementary administration for the Beaumont Independent School District, and with Dr. Norman Bellard, Lamar's senior associate vice president of student affairs, in scheduling the visits to the various schools.
"We want to encourage the importance of reading, doing your homework and staying in school," said Michael Wilkinson, the assistant director of marketing and promotions at Lamar. "One of the things the student-athletes stressed is that the more you practice, the better you will get. That goes for reading, math, music and art as well as for sports."
The Cardinal Connection is conducted through the Lamar athletics department because of the unique role-model opportunities that exist between student-athletes and young children. Involvement in the project allows the department to qualify for sponsorship funds provided by ExxonMobil.
"Kathleen Jackson, the public and government affairs manager at ExxonMobil has been tremendous to work with," Wilkinson said. "ExxonMobil's contributions make this program a success."
The kids on hand enjoyed various skits featuring Lamar student-athletes and coaches that encouraged reading. In addition, the youngsters all received red Cardinal Connection T-shirts. For many of them, it was their first time in the Montagne Center, the home of the Lamar men's and women's basketball teams.
"We're glad they can come here and see our great campus and tremendous facilities," Wilkinson said. "We hope they will come to games in the future, but we want them to know there is a first-class university right in their hometown."