Johnson, Stiemsma Read with Hale School Students

WALTHAM, Mass. – Celtics players JaJuan Johnson and Greg Stiemsma arrived at the Celtics practice facility on Monday afternoon. However, they were not there to practice; instead they were there to read.

Thanks to Kia Motors, 30 students from the Hale School in Roxbury, Mass., were able to participate in this month’s Read to Achieve program. Students were ushered into the Hall of Fame room and given T-shirts. As they gathered on pillows and blankets Matt Meyersohn, Director of Community Relations and Player Development, welcomed the youth and shared how excited he was to read Sergio Saves the Game by Edel Rodriguez.

Meyersohn then explained to the students that he was going to need a little help reading from some of his friends at the Celtics while he welcomed Johnson and Stiemsma into the room and the students clapped in enjoyment. To help introduce the players and students, Meyersohn had everyone say their name and favorite food. Most students exclaimed, “I like pizza!” while others said their favorites were french-fries, hamburgers and macaroni and cheese. Stiemsma told the youth that his personal favorite was pork chops.

Following the introductions, Johnson and Stiemsma began to read the book about Sergio. As they read, the youth learned that Sergio was not a very good soccer player. At first he tripped, slipped and bumped his way through practices and games. Feeling upset, Sergio changed his position to goalie and worked as hard as he could to become better. In the end Sergio won the game for his team against the seagulls.

Johnson told the crowd about a time when he tripped, slipped and bumped while playing basketball.

“When I was younger I was really tall and even skinnier than I am now,” he said. “I was terrible at basketball and always fell down. But with practice I got better.”

All of the kids applauded his efforts.

Meyersohn then asked one of the youth to explain the moral of the story. One student explained that the lesson in Sergio’s story was to work really hard and keep practicing if you want to get better. Johnson added that this lesson applies to other activities like reading and music, not just sports.

The youth were then given the opportunity to ask the Celtics players a question. One child asked both players what they did for All-Star break. Stiemsma said that he went ice fishing in Wisconsin, his home state. To further explain, Stiemsma told the youth that he and some friends went onto a frozen lake. They then drilled a huge hole in the lake and began to fish. Once the students asked a bunch of questions, it was time to have a little fun on the practice court.

Once onto the court, the Hale students were split into several teams for relay races. Johnson and Stiemsma, along with other Celtics staff, served as captains for each team. The objective was to dribble to half court and put the ball between their legs, then around their belly, and then dribble back to the out of bounds line. The first team to get all of their members to do this would win. The losing teams would be forced to do jumping jacks in front of the group. Students, players and staff excitedly cheered on members of their team while they dribbled down the court.

After several rounds of relay races and jumping jacks, it was time say goodbye. Johnson and Stiemsma took turns signing shirts and taking pictures with the youth. The students would leave the practice facility remembering the day they read Sergio Saves the Game with players of the Boston Celtics.

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