Summer Slugger program a win for local kids

Summer Slugger program a win for local kids

ARLINGTON -- Debuting a new learning tool, especially one that resembles a video game, would be reason enough for the students at Atherton Elementary School to get excited. But having a member of the Texas Rangers walk in and help them out with it? That's a cause for celebration in itself.

Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez stopped by the local school Tuesday morning to visit with the students, field some questions and talk about the Summer Slugger Program, a resource -- free to elementary schools -- that aims to help students retain the math and reading skills they learned through the year as they break for the summer.

"One of the biggest challenges we have with students is called 'The Summer Slide.' What happens is sometimes when they're not in school, all those skills that maybe they've acquired during the year, they end up losing a lot of it," said Atherton principal Nidia Zaravar. "With the Summer Slugger program, it's an entertaining way -- it's on a digital platform, and the students are all for that -- it's just an entertaining way for students to keep sharp and review those math skills and those literacy skills over the summer."

The program, developed by digital learning innovator EverFi, is the result of a partnership with the company and the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and uses baseball-themed activities to aid in skill retention. Students earn rewards for completing the 36 interactive challenges and games while maintaining consistency as they advance through the 18-week course.

"It was great interacting with the kids, watching the kids completing some work," Martinez said. "In the summer, I know it's a tough time when kids want to go out, be outside and kind of forget about school, but these kids are dedicated and working hard."

Martinez began with a visit to the computer lab, where members of the Atherton Student Council were hard at work with the program.

"In the computer lab, there was a lot of staring and stuff like that," said fifth grader Amaya Hambric. "But when we actually got to see the Texas Ranger, that's when I got really excited."

After his introduction, Martinez took part in an assembly of fifth graders in the gymnasium, where he spoke about his experiences growing up as a baseball player and fielded questions from the students. The club's mascot, Rangers Captain, even dropped by for a visit.

"I was able to explain to them that with hard work, even times when we don't want to work hard, that gets us to the next level," Martinez said. "For me, working hard every day, year-round, I've been able to play at the Major League level. And if these kids can put in some work, do what they're doing and continue to work hard -- especially during the summer -- they can prepare themselves for the next grade."

Atherton's partnership with the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is promising, as hearing the importance of staying sharp over the summer from a voice other than those of the teachers and faculty the students encounter every day is crucial.

"Different voices kind of reinforcing the same message of learning and the importance of that in the summer is important, as students hear many voices about things they should do and things they shouldn't do," said Marcelo Cavazos, superintendent of the Arlington School District. "Our voice is very important in the school system, but it needs to really be matched -- and this is a great example of that -- by our community, our private partners -- the Texas Rangers -- to reinforce that message of a community that we all want. And that is a community that continues to sustain, continues to grow and continues to learn."

Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.