The students at Ardmore Elementary School came in first place in the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation's Redskins Read Program, and were recognized by the team for their efforts.
The students at Ardmore Elementary School were rewarded on Friday, May 27th for their first place finish in the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation's Redskins Read Program. 4th & 5th grade students, the participating classes in the program, earned the unique opportunity to host a pep rally for their entire school.
While the student body was aware they would be celebrating their achievements with a Reading Pep Rally, little did they know the day would also include some Very Important People: Redskins linebacker Houston Bates and guard Arie Kouandjio, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and two Washington Redskins cheerleader ambassadors.
It felt like game day at FedExField during the assembly. Once Bates and Kouandjio were introduced, cheers were audible throughout the building and students rose to their feet to welcome their guests who would be spending the morning at Ardmore.
A special group of 4th and 5th graders even closed out the assembly with a performance and rap based on the Redskins Read Program.
"The chills man," Bates said. "The energy that these kids brought, you can't match it. It's awesome. Then to be excited about reading, something that's so beneficial to their lives, and that's [going to] really take them to the next level, [and] on through their educations and life, it's really exciting. I felt like I was on the field on Sundays again. These kids, they bring the energy."
In addition to the star power in attendance, every student in the school received a gift certificate from the Redskins Charitable Foundation to the school's Scholastic book fair, which allowed them to choose a brand new book for their home libraries. Select classrooms had the opportunity to shop with Bates, Kouandjio and the cheerleader ambassadors.
Kouandjio's roots in the DMV run deep. He was a Prince George's County student before attending DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., and heading off to the University of Alabama. He says it was great to get out and see young people doing big things in their school.
"It makes me real happy to come out here and see these kids doing well," Kouandjio said. "It makes me happy to see how excited they are to read, and that they won this competition. I just want to do my best to support them, and give them something to keep going with."
Bates, who admitted it wasn't until high school that reading began to interest him, purchased a book that sparked his curiosity at the book fair and decided to take it home for his personal library.
It's never too late to develop that love and passion for reading, says Bates.
"It really is fulfilling to read a book and get through it," Bates said. "It teaches you a lot, and broadens your vocabulary. I think, intellectually, it's the best thing you can do. To have these kids actually interested in books, and showing them what to do, and how it can be of value and beneficial to their lives, it really is fulfilling to me."
It would be very difficult for Bates and Kouandjio to do their jobs properly, not to mention living a normal life outside of football, if they lacked proper reading skills, which, fortunately, they both have.
Kouandjio just wanted to come out and let the kids know that "knowledge is power," and that reading is the key to their future successes.
"You can't function in life without reading," Kouandjio said. "That's one of the main ways information is passed from one person to another. It's a blessing for us to be able to go out there and read, and be able to learn how to read, and be able to learn how to write. These kids are growing up the right way."