'Shout-Fest On Sheffield' Energizes Blue Demons on Field Trip Day
Nearly 40 busloads of elementary school students filled up McGrath-Phillips Arena on Tuesday and cheered DePaul onto a win over Milwaukee.

Dec. 11, 2012

CHICAGO - On a normal school day, the more than 1,800 elementary school students assembled in McGrath-Phillips Arena would be sitting quietly in their class room raising their hand to speak.

But on Tuesday, the school kids made as much noise as they wanted in celebrating DePaul's 94-83 victory over Milwaukee at the sixth annual Field Trip Day event.

Hoping to inspire the young people to consider a path in higher education and giving them a glimpse of college life in Lincoln Park, DePaul Director of Athletics Jean Lenti Ponsetto heads up this community-service initiative that sends out nearly 40 buses for round-trip transportation.

The athletics department provides free tickets and Blue Demon T-shirts to students, teachers and chaperones for the "Shout-Fest On Sheffield."

Reinberg Elementary School brought more than 200 students while Greenbriar Elementary had 170 and Casals School of Excellence 135. Leslie Lewis School showed up with 130 students and Thorp Scholastic Academy came with 120. Rhodes Elementary from suburban River Grove and Portage Park Elementary School both came with a group of 100.

"I've never been to a basketball game before," said Tania Williams, an eighth grader at Dulles Elementary School on the South Side. "When I found out, I was so happy. This field trip is different from any other field trip I've gone on before. This is so much more exciting and you can get so loud.

"I play basketball, and I'm learning a lot just watching the DePaul players. I can see how hard you have to play when you're in college. This is going to help me when I play.

"I've thought about going to college. I see what happens to people who don't go to college. Some of them don't have a home. They don't have enough money to pay the rent or buy food. I don't want to live like them.

"Going to college and getting a career will help you pay for things and help you be more successful. I want to be a lawyer, and I'm thinking about going to DePaul."



Steve Jozwiak, a fifth-grade teacher at Rhodes School in suburban River Grove, was the one acting like a kid when he received the good news about Field Trip Day.

"Once I received approval, I literally ran from the principal's office to tell the other fifth-grade teachers," Jozwiak said. "Then we told the kids. They were truly appreciative and wanted to thank everyone at DePaul who made this possible.

"I am so happy, I'm dancing up and down. This year, the theme at our school is `Read Your Way to a Higher Education.' This is the perfect experience for children who don't think they can realize the dream of going to college. It's part of the world we live in that children don't think about college. In their minds---no way.

"Coming here, the students get a taste of the college experience and that if they are a good student and possibly a good athlete that they can earn a scholarship to a university."

Jacob Fredrickson is among the brightest students in Jozwiak's class and was grateful for the respite from the normal school day routine.

"I was amazed when I found out we were going to DePaul," Fredrickson said. "Basketball is my favorite sport, and I've never done anything like this for a field trip.

"Instead of the stress of school, I can relax and have fun. For five hours, I don't have to worry about forgetting something or missing an assignment. This shows me that when you do well in school, you get rewarded.

"We should do this for a few years. After that, even if you take away the reward, kids will still want to do well."

At the tender age of 10, Fredrickson has his future mapped out.

"I want to be a pro basketball player when I grow up," Jacob said. "If not, then I'd like to be the stats person for a pro basketball team.

"If that doesn't work out, I'd like to be a game designer. I'm working on designing a game right now. When I'm finished, I'm going to send my idea to a game company."

Anna Martin had quite a game for the Blue Demons on Tuesday, finishing with a season-high 30 points.

"This is one of my favorite games to play at DePaul," said Martin, who scored her team's first nine points. "It's so much fun to hear the kids scream and to hear them singing along with the songs.

"You always know when we score that first basket, the whole place is going to erupt."

DePaul coach Doug Bruno really enjoys the atmosphere of Field Trip Day.

"It's a special day when DePaul reaches out to the community to bring this many young students to a game," Bruno said. "There was so much energy out there from all those kids.

"This is DePaul's mission of service to the urban environment. It provides these children with exposure to a campus setting in Lincoln Park and to women's college basketball."

Nicole Sroka is an eighth grader at Reinberg School on the Northwest Side and had a great time once again after attending the event last year.

"You can see how so many people take pride in this," Sroka said. "They must really love the sport.

"I am also really impressed by how well the women play basketball. Last year was the first game I'd ever been to a game, and now I'm begging my parents to take me to more games.

"I've been to other college campuses, and this is one of the nicest that I've seen. The architecture is impressive, the campus is so clean and the gym is a great place to watch a game.

"Some of my teachers went to DePaul, and now after these two field trips, I want to go here, too. For DePaul to do all of this for us school kids is really amazing."

Reinberg principal Ed Loch only wishes he could bring more to Lincoln Park.

"This is such a popular event at our school," Loch said. "I had teacher aides and others asking to come along. I couldn't take everybody.

"We brought more than 200 students and teachers from our seventh and eighth grades. When we came last year, the boys were disappointed that it was a women's game. I told them to just wait. After the game, they were like: `Wow, they can really play!'"

Field Trip Day is an eye-opener in a lot of ways.

"This is very kind and generous of DePaul to give back to the community," Jozwiak said. "It's truly a Christian thing to do. It goes along with the Catholic church's teaching to give.

"Hopefully DePaul will receive back some bright students in the future. I would like to personally thank Jean Lenti Ponsetto and Dave Corzine for all their hard work in putting this great event together.

"In my 19 years of teaching, this is the first time I've ever had an opportunity like this. I was really impressed with how smoothly all the arrangements went. There was no stress whatsoever on our end, and that is sweet."

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