Education

NY Giants Running Back Rashad Jennings Scores Points with Hillsborough Fifth-Graders, Presents NFL Memorabilia to Students for Reading Books

2e0ef345e74a6dbd0a6a_IMG_4608.JPG
0acf28081cf67af8839a_IMG_4612.JPG
ceceb8322474b2c1c28f_best_1a0ca3c1f3c78e0ae956_hillspixrashad.JPG
2e0ef345e74a6dbd0a6a_IMG_4608.JPG

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Marissa Marton, of Bridgewater, is the 5th grade Literacy and Social Studies teacher at Auten Road Intermediate School, but spent the previous six years as the school’s art teacher

Her favorite color? Blue. As in “Big Blue.” As in New York Football Giants. That blue.

“I’m a huge Giants fan,” she said.

Sign Up for E-News

That’s how Giants running back Rashad Jennings wound up visiting Marton and her students earlier this week.

A graduate of Bridgewater-Raritan High School, her relationship with Jennings and his Rashad Jennings Foundation started through chats on Instagram, where she first learned of the RJF Reading Challenge, designed to ignite students with a passion for reading and literacy through offering incentives for their efforts.

The Reading Challenge seemed to be the perfect fit for the school and their new Literacy teacher.

Marton traveled to New York City last year to learn more about the foundation, and soon became the Reading Challenge coordinator for New Jersey. The foundation works with schools in New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Florida.

The Reading Challenge program has one major goal: to get students excited about reading. While many schools have reading initiatives, the RJF Reading Challenge incentives are unique.

During the month of the challenge, students read as many books as they can. The books that are read must be on the student’s Lexile Level or approved by the student’s teacher.

After the student reads the book, they take a computer-based or teacher-created assessment of the content. When the student passes with an 80 percent or better, they are automatically entered into a drawing to win prizes like NFL game tickets, signed merchandise and memorabilia from professional athletes, locker room tours, a SKYPE session with Jennings and other athletes, gift cards, pizza parties and more.

With the help of all ARIS Grade 5 literacy teachers, the challenge was a huge success. Grade 5 students read over 750 books.

“He’s been great with my students,” Marton said. “He’s been very encouraging and has written back to them on Instagram.”

Marton arranged for Jennings to visit ARIS, but did not tell the students he was coming. The students gathered for an awards assembly, excited to see who would win the football memorabilia that had been promised to the most voracious readers.

But when the NFL player walked through the door, the students responded like true-blue Giants fans do when Jennings scores a touchdown.

Jennings spoke to the students about the struggles and challenges he faced as a student.

“He had a reading disability as child, he struggled in school and spoke to the students about that,” Marton explained. “He struggled with asthma, he was an overweight kid. He talked about believing in yourself, working hard and having a positive attitude.”

After Rashad’s encouraging words, he pulled 24 students’ names from the reading entries. Students won autographed practice cleats, game worn gloves and photographs.

Afterwards, Jennings visited with Marton’s students.

“He came to class and spent 80 minutes with us; they were writing a reflection essay on their experience with Rashad,” she said. “He was asking them about their favorite books, signing autographs, he was very down to earth, very humble.

“He has a huge heart,” Marton added. “It’s obvious, you can see it, the way he interacts with the kids.”

Jennings plans to expand the reach of the foundation; his ultimate goal is to have an RJF chapter in all 50 states, with NFL players involved in each state supporting students.

Studies show that the link between academic failure and delinquency, violence and crime is welded to reading failure, according to the foundation:

  • One in four children in America grow up without learning to read;
  • Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare;
  • 6 out of 10 households do not purchase a single book in a year;
  • to determine how many prison beds will be needed in the future, some states actually base their projection on how well current elementary students are preparing on their reading tests;
  • 50 percent of Americans read so poorly they are unable to perform simple tasks such as reading a cereal box or prescription drug labels;
  • 44 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their children.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Bridgewater/Raritan

Upcoming Events

Wed, June 20, 9:00 AM

The Wayrick Gallery, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: NJ Audubon Photography Instructors’ ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Thu, June 21, 9:00 AM

The Wayrick Gallery, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: NJ Audubon Photography Instructors’ ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Fri, June 22, 9:00 AM

The Wayrick Gallery, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: NJ Audubon Photography Instructors’ ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Voters have Spoken : Bridgewater BOE's Barry Walker fails in attempt to unseat Mayor Daniel Hayes for Municipal Committee Seat

June 11, 2018

To the Editor:

Usually primary elections hold very little political drama but this year in our town I was very surprised to learn that the Board of Education's Barry Walker unsuccessfully ran a campaign against Mayor Daniel Hayes in an attempt to unseat him from his District 10 Municipal Committee Seat.

Now I know why many Independent voters like me stay out of ...

Bridgewater Police Investigating Report of $2K Worth of Tools Stolen from Car, According to Report

June 17, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater Township Police are investigating a report of a theft of more than $2,000 from a vehicle parked at the Home Depot, in the Bridgewater Towne Center, according to a report.

A Hillsborough resident reported June 3 at about 5:58 p.m. that his vehicle had been burglarized while parked at the Home Depot. The theft occurred between 5 p.m. and 5:50 p.m.

According to ...

Alternatives, in Raritan, Wins Healthier Somerset Gold Award for Outstanding Worksite Wellness Programs

June 19, 2018

RARITAN, NJ – Alternatives, Inc., of Raritan, was recognized with a 2018 Healthier Somerset Healthy Workplace Recognition Award for implementing worksite wellness programs that improve the health and wellbeing of its employees and clients.

Alternatives earned a Gold Award, which distinguishes companies with programs in place for at least five years, and in 10 award ...

Thousands Expected in Hillsborough for Sourland Music Festival

June 20, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – The Sourland Music Festival will be held Saturday, June 23 from 3-10 p.m. at the Hillsborough Golf & Country Club at 146 Wertsville Road, rain or shine, to benefit the Sourland Conservancy.

Discounted advance-sale tickets are available online only, Children under 12 are admitted free.

“We’ve got a really powerful lineup of the region’s most ...

Five Strategies to Save Thousands on College

When talking about college debt, the statistics are never encouraging. In fact, the story gets sadder each year.  The average recent college graduate has amassed a debt exceeding $35,000 and joins the ranks of 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.3 trillion in education debt. The key is to avoid being a part of this grim statistic by considering some highly effective ...