Through the facilitation of the Jacksonville Sports Council, SJEDS hosted a basketball clinic with the players from UF back in December which resulted in the pen pal program. SJEDS has five basketball teams, including one girls team (fourth through sixth grades) and four boys teams (third through sixth grades). All team members were matched with a player from UF.
The correspondence and event was coordinated by Director of Afterschool Activities and Athletics Amy Blumstein. “This was so much more than meeting basketball players from a well-known school,” she stated. “They were genuine in their interaction with our students. It was evident that the UF players were just as excited in meeting their pen pals as the SJEDS players were to meet them.”
Blumstein noted one specific letter where a student mentioned to his pen pal that he didn’t get the ball passed to him very often. “The player responded by writing, ’I believe in you.’ The players were encouraging to our students, and helped them build self-confidence both on and off the court, more than they probably even realize.”
The teams exchanged personal notes and video messages in anticipation of this week’s SEC tournament here in Jacksonville. “We are so grateful for the opportunity to correspond and meet these exceptional athletes,” stated Lori Menger, Head of School. “This is a really big deal for our students. It will surely leave a lasting impression.”
For the younger students, the highlight of the day was certainly the time shared on the court.
“It was really cool because they are a college team and they played with us, and we’re only kids,” stated third grader Tre Carter. “My pen pal told me to keep shooting, and my favorite part of the game was when I made a hoop!”
The correspondence will culminate with San Jose Episcopal Day School’s players being featured on the court at halftime during the Gators’ SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament game on Friday, March 4, 2016 at 2:30 p.m.