Sept. 10, 2015
-- For most third grade students across the country, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015 was just like any other day. Math. Science. English. History. For the 24 third grade scholars from Schmid Elementary School, a school on the south side of Chicago, it was a life-changing experience kind of day.
On June 19, Schmid Elementary teacher Quinlan Matthew uploaded a video of her class giving a presentation on Auburn University. A part of the school's college week, the scholars, as the students are called at Schmid, had to give a presentation about a university, researching academic information, athletics and traditions. Her class chose Auburn and immediately found a new love -- and as anyone that has graduated Auburn can tell you, that love can overwhelm you.
From that small video came a series of events that most people wouldn't think possible but was and is because of the generosity of Auburn friends and family, both inside the university and the Auburn community as a whole.
First there was a trip up to Schmid Elementary by Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs, Aubie and Bo Jackson on July 9 to meet the class.
Then came Thursday, which started at 4:30 a.m. CT at Schmid Elementary. Next stop, the airport where Delta was waiting with balloons and treats for the scholars. A flight to Atlanta and a Tiger Transit trip down I-85 to Auburn followed. And then things really got exciting.
The scholars and their chaperones arrived at the Auburn Athletics Complex just past noon and were welcomed through the doors by the band, cheerleaders, Aubie and a lobby full of Auburn athletics department coaches and staff
"You have blessed the Auburn family further than anything I have seen reach people with your dedication, your hard work and your love for each other. It has impacted the Auburn family and we are so happy to have you here," Jacobs told the traveling party upon their arrival. "Thank you for bringing your family to our family, and now we're all one big family."
"I'm not a crier at all, my staff can tell you that with confidence, but today I am brought to tears of joy for the amazing efforts across this university," Schmid Elementary principal Andrea Black said, and that was just after being on campus for less than an hour. There is still lots more to do, see and hear.
Softball coach Clint Myers told the Schmid group how their actions impacted his team, the one that was in the final six of the 2015 College World Series.
"When your video came out, we showed it to our team and we talked about learning and the importance of dreams and really doing something well," Myers said. "You didn't know Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Jackson were going to come and offer this great thing that you are doing now. You did it because it was a project and you guys did such a great job that the rest of the world learned from it."
Jordan Diamond, a junior offensive lineman on the football team, drew huge applause from the scholars when they found out he came to Auburn from Chicago's Simeon High School. "Dreams are important," Diamond told the wide-eyed group. "Dream big. There is nothing you guys cannot do. I learned a long time ago if you quit you've automatically lost, but if you keep going you will always be in the fight."
"These kids are having the time of their life," Quinlan Matthew said while the group was standing inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Thursday, the new video board looming over her shoulder, the same video board that scholars were able to control from the War Eagle Productions control room just a short time earlier. "They are saying they want to go to Auburn, they want to figure out how to go to Auburn now or how many years they have to wait until they can go to Auburn. They are having the best time."
Taja Collins, whose line in the video included the fact that more than half of all Auburn scholars receive support and scholarships, and her mother, Tiffany Wright, have already seen and felt the Auburn spirit. "It's beautiful. From the trees to the fresh air to the people. From the time we landed, everyone welcomed us. It's just beautiful," said a beaming Tiffany while the scholars and chaperones enjoyed a snack in the Tigers' Den of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I was just amazed. I couldn't believe that they would do all of this just for us," said another parent, Lilia Daniel. "This will really have an effect on the kids in the long run. They will think back to this later in their lives and say, `I want to go to college' because of this experience.
The Schmid Scholars will remain in Auburn through the end of Saturday's Auburn vs. Jacksonville State football game. After touring the athletic facilities on Thursday, they will get a dose of Auburn academic life on Friday, visiting the fisheries, the library, the Auburn Airport, the vet school and talking with President Jay Gogue.