Mississippi State student-athletes did their part Wednesday to help excite Henderson-Ward-Stewart Elementary students about the annual Bully’s Book Blitz.
Bully’s Book Blitz was started 10 years ago by MSU soccer player Annemarie Pimentel.
As president of MSU’s M-Club, Pimentel wanted to conduct a community service activity that would inspire young children. She came up with the idea to encourage elementary children to get excited about reading. She felt if the younger students were encouraged to read by MSU student athletes, they would be more inclined to understand the long-term importance of reading.
Pimentel teamed up with Ward-Stewart Elementary to host a pep rally in which MSU athletes came to the school and talk about the importance of reading. The pep rally turned into a gradewide competition to see which fourth grade class could read the most books in one month.
“This is part of the M-Club’s commitment to implement a community service project,” said Ray Berryhill, assistant athletic director and student advisor. “This is one of the longest-running community service activities the athletes take part in.”
The tradition has continued and evolved into a reading extravaganza. Coordinating the event this year is fourth grade teacher Jana Everett.
“I hope that it will inspire them to want to read and do well in school to become whatever they want to become in life,” Everett said of her goal for the reading pep rally.
The four-week competition kicked off Tuesday with a pep rally featuring MSU athletes representing all sports from football to track, golf to volleyball and everything in between.
Senior football offensive lineman Derek Sherrod talked to the students about how he never would have been able to play football for MSU if he didn’t have the good grades to be recruited in the first place.
“The more you read, the better you get at it,” Sherrod told the students. “Anything you want to be in life, you have to be able to read. “
Fellow offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry reiterated what Sherrod said by telling a personal story of how he was not a good reader when he was a young boy. With encouragement from family, he began to read more and more, and eventually developed a love for it over time, Saulsberry said.
“I just want to encourage you to read,” Saulsberry said. “The more you read, the more you know, the more you can change the world.”
Head Football Coach Dan Mullen told the students that the first thing he does as a recruiter visiting a school is to stop by the counselor’s office to check on potential player’s grades.
“If they don’t have good grades, I can’t recruit them,” he said. “Being a champion is not a sometimes thing. It’s an all the time thing.”
Women’s Head Basketball Coach Sharon Fanning came prepared with a prop to get her point across to the fourth graders. She displayed one maroon balloon and one white balloon and asked the children to shout out the similarities and differences between the two.
The children yelled out obvious similarities like the shape and material, and obvious differences like color and size. Then Fanning let go of the strings attached to both balloons, and one fell to the ground and the next floated to the ceiling, explaining that one balloon was filled with air and the other with helium.
Her visual representation should teach the children that it doesn’t matter what you look like, but it’s the drive inside each student that determines what they do with their lives, Fanning said.
“It’s what’s inside that counts that will determine whether we rise to the top or fall to the bottom,” Fanning said.
After the pep rally, each student received an MSU football poster signed by all the athletes present. Berryhill said he didn’t know which group of students have more fun during the event as both, and M-Club officer Ashley Newsome agreed.
“I feel like it’s exciting because they’re excited to see us, and if we’re exciting about reading, they will be, too,” Newsome said.