Aggies Visit Sierra Enterprise Elementary School

Students from Sierra Enterprise Elementary School participate in a dribbling drill under the watchful eyes of Ryan Sypkens.

May 3, 2013

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - UC Davis men's basketball student-athletes Spencer Clayton, Corey Hawkins and Ryan Sypkens took a break from a busy week both inside the classroom, and on the court, to speak with students from Sierra Enterprise Elementary School.

"When the players visited, they were rock stars in the eyes of my students," said Sierra Enterprise Principal Patricia Hecht. "My students knew the players and were very excited to attend this assembly to hear them speak."

The Aggie trio shared their experiences as student-athletes, provided tips and suggestions to help those in attendance further develop their time management, communication, decision making, problem solving and leadership skills in addition to an impromptu basketball clinic.

Clayton, Hawkins and Sypkens each took turns reading passages and sharing personal experiences prior to arriving at UC Davis throughout the initial portion of the assembly. Besides offering words of encouragement, all three also provided various study skills and techniques they found helpful as a student.

Providing everyone in attendance with a few laughs along the way, the second portion of the program featured a question-and-answer session involving Sierra Enterprise students.

As eager as the students were to learn about life as a student-athlete, a loud round of applause also took place after Hawkins shared his interest in the subject of history, Sypkens and the students shared their passion for math and after a slam dunk from Clayton took place as part of a basketball clinic that comprised the final block of time. 

Using Sierra Enterprise students as volunteers, the three UC Davis student-athletes covered the fundamentals of basketball and taught their younger counterparts the proper way to pass, dribble and shoot a basketball.

"The students all liked the basketball portion of the presentation, but my teachers really liked how all three talked about improving leadership skills, being a scholar-athlete and leader. All that information can be connected to what we do here, we have a character element in our curriculum," explained Hecht.

Earlier this year, Hecht brought a bus filled with students, parents and volunteers to a UC Davis men's basketball game, an experience that drew rave reviews from everyone involved.

"There was a high level of energy shown by my students when we took a tour of the college. Some of my students were even high-fiving UC Davis students that passed us on our bikes," said Hecht. 

She also added, "It is difficult for some of the students to see themselves in a college environment. To visit a place this accessible, and explain how students live, study, work and eat here really captivated everyone. Some students wanted to visit the Rec Center, another group just wanted to talk to college students to hear their experiences while others took pictures of everything.

Prior to that night's game versus UC Santa Barbara, Darius Graham, Avery Johnson and Iggy Nujic took time to greet, meet and thank those who made the trip to campus. 

"It is so nice that there is a full connected process; we were able to visit "their house," their school and see how they live, and then the players came here to inspire us by visiting "our house" to show my students the tools they need to become successful."

For Clayton and his teammates, interacting with such an enthusiastic and attentive audience made their experience just as enjoyable and memorable.

"When we spoke with the principal and found out how much these kids looked up to us, our goal was to create as positive an event as possible. Even though we were helping them, they helped us in a lot of ways because it felt great to serve as a mentor and help them set goals in their lives," said Clayton.

For Sypkens, the trip was a homecoming since the Elk Grove native graduated from nearby Franklin High School.

"Once everyone found out that Ryan attended an Elk Grove Unified School District school, all the kids went 'oooooh, cool.' When my kids made that sound, I knew they made the connection that he was one of them, and my students can be just as successful as him because he is one of us," explained Hecht.

"To see articulate college students read passages and talk about their experiences as a student, I could just see how inspiring that was to my students. I could not be more impressed with all three student-athletes who visited our school."