Fourth and fifth-grade students at D'Ippolito Elementary School got a lesson in respect and a chance to chat with Vineland High School alumni and current Rutgers University students Isaih Pacheco and Tyreem Powell on Tuesday. They were joined by their teammate on the Scarlet Knights football team, Keenan Reid.
Pacheco, a 2018 graduate of VHS, will graduate from Rutgers in December with a degree in criminal justice and hopes of joining the 2022 NFL Draft class. Powell, a 2020 graduate of VHS, is also majoring in criminal justice. Reid, a 2017 graduate of Franklin Township High School, is majoring in journalism and media studies.
Pacheco and Powell reached out to principal Sylvia Morano and requested to come speak to the school, which they both attended as elementary students. Assistant principal Daisy Mercado, also a D’Ippolito and VHS alumnus, quickly urged her to say yes.
“We knew what it would mean to these kids,” Mercado said. “It’s such a great opportunity for everyone.”
Upon arrival at the school, Pacheco and Powell quickly began rattling off the names of their former teachers, smiling as they looked around in amazement at the building they hadn’t seen in years. After a brief introduction from Rutgers Director of Player Development, Damiere Shaw, each student-athlete introduced themselves and provided some background information to the D’Ippolito students.
The main speaking point was on the subject of respect. Each player provided their definition of respect and some examples before asking the students who they respect in their lives. Responses ranged from family members to friends, classmates, and teachers.
Following that discussion, students were able to ask the players questions. The D’Ippolito students were particularly interested in the difficulty between playing a sport and being a good student, which allowed the players to describe how having a strong work ethic helps them balance school, football, and time for their family and friends. Other questions revolved around the day-to-day life of a collegiate football player and what their plans are for the future. The trio explained that a career in the NFL is challenging and isn’t guaranteed, so it’s essential to have a backup plan. Pacheco is interested in becoming a state trooper; Reid, a sports broadcaster; and Powell would like to work for the FBI.
Although not planned to be, the visit coincided perfectly with “Giving Tuesday,” which promotes the concept of generosity through charitable actions. The group embodied this purpose, arriving with a trunk-load of school supplies they purchased from D’Ippolito teachers' wish lists. Two large carts full of boxes were wheeled into the school, to the delight of the staff.
Following the assembly and a quick round of photographs, the players took a tour of the school, visiting some of their former teachers. Along the way, they were stopped for photos by students and staff alike, even signing autographs for one excited fan.
“This place is exactly the way I remember it,” Pacheco said, grinning as he looked around his former classroom. “Maybe just a little bit smaller. It’s good to be here.”
A full gallery of photos is available here: https://bit.ly/3xJG6Pt
A news piece from the event can be found on our YouTube page here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFwNlH_s17U