Southeast Missouri State University football players and cheerleaders took time out from their homecoming preparations Thursday to hold a pep rally for students at Blanchard Elementary.
The rally inspired plenty of enthusiasm for the university's homecoming this weekend, but also carried an important message for students: Stay in school.
"Homecoming is an encouraging time," said senior cheerleader Jeff Engebretson. "For elementary students, just being at homecoming will impact them."
Engebretson said the students came to show the elementary kids there were many opportunities to have fun and enjoy school.
For their part in the pep rally, Engebretson and his fellow cheerleaders performed several routines and taught students some Southeast cheers.
Members of the Southeast football team took time to walk up and down the rows of students, shaking hands and giving high-fives.
From the students' wide eyes and gaping mouths, it was clear they were impressed by the achievements of the athletes.
"This is an opportunity for us to be good role models and influence these kids to stay in school," said junior Joe Busby, a defensive back for the Indians who is an elementary education major.
"You can't grow up and be anything without staying in school,"he said. "Kids may not like school, but they've got to learn to deal with it anyway."
Southeast assistant football coach Tony Joe White said he hoped the players' presence at the pep rally might inspire some elementary students to take an interest in football.
"Hopefully this will also increase community support for homecoming," White said.
Southeast's homecoming events begin with a parade at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by the football game at 1 p.m. against Eastern Illinois University.
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