Cowboys wide receiver and Madison County High School (MCHS) Junior Zarrion Robinson was the first to be compensated a total of $50 for his efforts in racking up Accelerated Reading (AR) points, but he certainly wasn't the last, after setting a precedence throughout the locker room.
Now, the stars of Friday night football are looking for fresh cash, being offered through an incentive that encourages everyone, on and off the field, to not just cheer for touchdowns, but for academic success as well. And, thanks to the reward incentive, book check-out numbers are up in the MCHS library.
Community activist and Boyz to Kings founder, Merv Mattair, began the Cowboy Up & Read program in September, an incentive that began rewarding one Madison County Cowboy who received the most AR points throughout the week, during every Friday night home game. With that, it is Mattair's hope that the entire county of students will begin to see the value in reading.
"In this county, education should be above everything," Mattair claims, stating that reading and comprehensive skills are a valuable tool. "[Students] get elevated to the next grade and some cannot read or comprehend. If we can get the Cowboys football team to start reading more and making it cool, we can get more youth to read."
Mattair's ultimate goal is for education to be a top priority for everyone, by getting the fans in the stands to cheer for academics, just as hard as they do for a touchdown, home run or three-point score on the court. "If we, as a community, could just rally around academics," Mattair adds. "our children would be productive citizens after high school. Let's get this crowd to cheer for reading."
The incentive program is already gaining traction within the community. Mattair expressed that O'Neal's Country Buffet "jumped in immediately," awarding the winners with a free meal. He also mentioned Cassandra Aikens, who raised money for the program through a bake sale. Ace Hardware and other community members have also allowed Mattair to award two students on a couple of occasions, thanks to the generous support.
And, as long as the support continues, Mattair's program will award more than just the local football players. Mattair visited Greenville Elementary School (GES) to award six elementary students for their reading enthusiasm. The students received a total of $30 each and one student was also awarded with a free meal from O'Neal's Country Buffet.
"You earned this," Mattair exclaimed while talking to the cafeteria full of students. "We can not only clap when you do things like hitting a baseball across the fence or scoring a touchdown. There's more to life than athleticism. Use your mind!"