Seahawk Mack Strong launches new Saturday school
August 28, 2008 · Updated 10:42 AM
TULALIP Students at Tulalip Elementary School got Strong-armed last week with a visit from Seattle Seahawk Mack Strong, who kicked off a new Saturday educational program.
The TEAM-WORK Saturday Academy aims to build strong minds, bodies and characters, and Strong and his wife, Zoe, showed up with Seahawks mascot Blitz and a couple SeaGals cheerleaders to fire up the audience during an Oct. 10 visit.
Zoe Strong is the site coordinator for the program supported by the Project Hope Partnership and has started similar programs in Seattle schools. A Nez Perce Indian, she wanted to get involved with other tribes in the area and picked this school to combine athletics and academics to help fourth- and fifth-graders with a series of Saturday sessions to create well-rounded students. Her husband kicked things off.
I hope the next eight weeks you have a fantastic experience, the 14-year NFL veteran told the cheering crowd of students in the school gym. We really want to stress having a strong mind, strong body and strong character.
He emphasized the importance of eating right and reading; junk food makes a person lazy, and Strong said he reads everyday, including the Bible, magazines and newspapers. He said he wants to help the fourth- and fifth-graders who participate in the program and inspire the younger students. In addition to being physically fit and having good grades, its important for people to have a sense of right and wrong, he said.
Character is who you are when nobody else is around, Strong explained. That means not just doing what is right, but it also entails persevering when a person wants to just give up. I quit. I never want to hear that from anyone in this room, Strong said.
Thats crucial, according to his wife; Zoe Strong noted that only 47 percent of Native American students will graduate high school, asking the students to look around and imagine half of them not making the cut.
Its sad with a Native American culture thats where we are at right now, she said. We know that finishing school can be really challenging. Were here to help you.
The Saturday academy starts Oct. 21 and will combine sports with tutoring through the Catapult Online Learning system, the same program used at Sylvan Learning Centers, noted Tulalip Elementary principal Teresa Iyall, a Coeur dAlene Indian in her third year at the helm. A grant from the Project Hope partnership will pay for 28 students to participate, and the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club will help with transportation. The Saturday sessions will last four hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and are also supported by the Tulalip Education Department and Tulalip Youth Services.
Iyall said the online tutoring system isnt just playing computer games, but students interact with a real live teacher on the other end. That gives students immediate feedback and encouragement, with individual attention.
Its as though they have their own teacher; the ratio is three-to-one, Iyall said. Im really excited about it.
The school got hooked up through Michelle Brandzer of the Tulalip Family and Youth Services, who met Zoe Strong through their Seattle church. A Navajo Indian, she said the two got talking and things started happening.
We had the same type of dreams, Brandzer explained. We got talking and she decided to do something here at Tulalip. I think itll do great. The support has been overwhelming.
I think its just going to be a tremendous boost to the kids at Tulalip Elementary, said Don Hatch. He is a Tulalip Indian and has been on the Marysville School District Board of Directors for more than a dozen years and has a stake in the outcome with six-year-old grandson Nathaniel Hatch attending the first grade at the school. Its really going to go well with the kids.