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Goal Line girls recognized by athletes

By Jackie Wattles
On February 6, 2013

  • Members of East Hartford’s Goal Line for girls visits the Mark Edwards Freitas Ice Forum before being recognized at the women’s basketball game on Tuesday night. PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHANIE BOHANNON

Eighteen beaming middle school girls from East Hartford were recognized at the UConn women's basketball game Tuesday night.

They are members of a group of middle school students that are visited each month by UConn athletes. This year, 30 boys and 30 girls were selected by their teachers, gym teachers and guidance counselors at East Hartford Middle School to participate in Goal Line.

For their monthly visit, a group of UConn student-athlete volunteers board a bus and spend two hours in East Hartford reading with underprivileged children.

Stephanie Bohannon, the Goal Line coordinator at UConn, said the goal of the program is to give the kids role models and "instill a motivation to go to college."

"They read stories together about overcoming adversity, sportsmanship, opportunity, gratitude, and friendship," Bohannon said. "The kids love it. It engages them with people they really look up to. It gets them excited and sometimes star- struck. The teachers feel it's really made a difference in them."

The program was founded six years ago by former UConn head football coach Randy Edsall. Originally, the project included only a group of boys and volunteers from the UConn football team. Since then, the program has been expanded to include volunteers from all UConn varsity sports teams, and, last year, a separate program for girls began.

Donna Kehoe, the executive director of ChildPlan, a non-profit organization in East Hartford that helps plan the Goal Line curriculum, said that Tuesday night marked a momentous event for the young girls in the program.

"The girls had a phenomenal time. It was the first time a lot of them have ever been to a [UConn sports] game or been on a college campus," Kehoe said. "The impact has been tremendous on them. The athletes really connect with the kids, and their stories relate to them. It really starts to put that seed in their mind at an early age about the importance of education."

It won't be the last time the group of girls visit the UConn campus. In March, SBM Charitable Foundation, the charity that provides the funds for Goal Line, will provide transportation for the girls to attend a softball game and campus tour. The boys' Goal Line group will be able to attend a baseball game and tour in May.

Junior Natalie Carlone, a human development and family studies major and co-captain of the women's varsity crew team, has been a regular volunteer for Goal Line.

"The girls that we work with get so excited to share their lives with the volunteers," Carlone said. "As the girls hear stories from me and my teammates, they begin to open up and relate to us. Goal Line is a great experience because it gives students the attention and role models they need to feel encouraged and motivated in school and relationships."

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