As two S.J. Montgomery Elementary School students walked around campus on Wednesday, one boy looked out into the parking lot and spotted a coach bus emblazoned with University of Louisiana at Lafayette logos.
With a tinge of awe in his voice — and without taking his eyes off the mammoth vehicle — the boy described what he saw to his friend: “The Cajuns are here.”
And indeed, a bus full of Ragin’ Cajuns athletes had disembarked at the school and 10 others throughout the week for the “Reading In Red” tour, during which the athletes read books to elementary school students throughout Lafayette Parish.
It’s the sixth year Ragin’ Cajuns, representing a number of sports, engaged in the project as an effort “to reach out to the community and encourage literacy among the elementary schools,” said Russell Register, an adviser with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Student-athletes are not required to volunteer but are still actively involved in the efforts throughout the year, which could involve hospital visits or collecting items for local shelters, Register said.
But he said the reading tour is a favorite among athletes.
“This is something they look forward to each spring,” Register said.
Two Ragin’ Cajuns golfers emerging from a second-grade S.J. Montgomery classroom — toting the book “Born to Be a Ragin’ Cajun” — agreed.
“This is our favorite event, for sure,” said Thomas Strandemo, a senior management major from North Dakota.
The opportunity gives athletes a chance to directly interact with people, whereas other volunteer efforts throughout the year may involve fundraising or collecting goods, said Christian Verrougstraete, a senior management major from France.
“It’s also a good experience,” Verrougstraete said.
Julianna Brooks, a long-distance runner from Las Vegas, read “Great Day for Up” by Dr. Seuss to 17 squirming kindergartners in Tiffany Daigle’s class at Prairie Elementary. An hour later, the sophomore economics student read a book to a classroom full of S.J. Montgomery students during their physical education block. Then she led the energetic children in a workout. Charmaine Jones, an instructional strategist at S.J. Montgomery, said it’s a rare occasion for visitors to visit the school and engage the students in such a way.
“The kids are super excited,” she said.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.