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CMU football coach and players provide exhibition for Appleton Elementary School as SD51 retakes the field of education

The students of Appleton Elementary school displayed jubilation during the Bookworms' return-to-school assembly. This year, the event was celebrated outside with each child wearing a mask. In addition to being outdoors, the assembly included surprise guests. Colorado Mesa University Head Football Coach Tremaine Jackson, quarterback Aaron Howard and running back Isaac Maestas joined the Appleton Elementary School Bookworms on the field. The coach and athletes spoke to students about loving each other, practicing respect for other people and giving the effort necessary to follow dreams.

The Colorado Mesa University Mavericks and the Appleton Bookworms were both celebrating last week’s return to in-person learning. School District 51 Assistant Superintendent Brian Hill joined the celebration.

"Today our guests shared the message that if you continue to work hard, if you respect each other and if you put the effort in, you can do anything in life," said Hill. "I'm so glad Appleton students got to hear that message today."

SD51 has implemented significant social distancing protocols that required separating the school assembly into two distinct gatherings. Jackson and his players stayed for both.

After supplying remarks, Howard and Maestas ran onto the playground and showcased a series of routes and football moves including a downfield completed pass that resulted in the cheers and elated clapping from the children. Coach Jackson spoke about the foundation of the CMU program that includes love and respect – values that echo the school mantra of Appleton Elementary.

Appleton Principal Corey Hafey was presented with a CMU Maverick football jersey which he put on during the event while teachers and children applauded and danced. After the passing demonstration, Howard and Maestas joined the kids in a series of dances and played on the school's playground equipment.

"This was a special day for us, and it feels good to have the kids back," said Hafey. "For many of our students these players are like living super heroes and having them talk about the values that are so important to our school was a needed shot in the arm as we prepare to teach and learn in the face of this pandemic."

As Hafey introduced Jackson and the CMU student athletes, he focused on their academic excellence over their athleticism. After the event Jackson explained that, "he got more out of the event personally than he felt like he gave."

"People around the nation are talking about how to solve the world's problems," said Jackson. "Having the players here today interacting with these young kids around themes of love and responsibility means we are making more of a difference than talking could ever do. These kids are the future, and their hearts reminded me of why we play football and how we can use CMU football to make the world better."

While high-fives and hand shakes are not allowed under the school's social distancing protocols, Howard and Maestas made sure each child received an elbow or fist bump before returning to class.

"When coach gave us the invite to speak with these young kids about how to develop leadership and integrity, I didn’t hesitate to accept," said Howard. "This is my responsibility as a college athlete to pay forward to those who took time to teach me. Coaches and teachers shape the future and I was proud to take off my Maverick helmet today and be an Appleton Bookworm for a day."

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Written by David Ludlam