Saturday, athid=6078&deptid=111"> --> Scott Tolzien will emerge into the spotlight as he leads the Badgers into the 2009 season opener. As a reserve the last two years, he has taken a back seat, but now in his junior season, all eyes will be on Tolzien after being named the starting quarterback by head coach Bret Bielema.
To first and second graders from Willow Bend School in Rolling Meadows, Ill., Tolzien has always been the go-to guy.
For two years, Tolzien has worked with the school in the No Excuses program, which focuses on instilling the belief in elementary school kids that they will learn the skills needed to go to college.
The program is basically to get the first and second graders to want to go to college, make that a priority and try to teach them a little bit about what college is like, Tolzien said. I remember when I was in first and second grade, I didnt have a clue. I think its an awesome program.
Each grade at Willow Bend chose a different university to adopt and the first and second grades, which are combined and co-taught, eagerly picked Wisconsin. As an alum of Willow Bend School, Tolzien was more than willing to help out with the program. He regularly e-mails with the class and visits the students when the Badgers are on winter break and when spring practices are complete.
Theyre first and second graders so you cant make it too boring, but my whole goal was with each e-mail, to try and teach them a new thing about college, whether its paying bills, cleaning my apartment, how I get around campus, just stuff you take for granted, Tolzien said. I try to send a hard copy of something. Ill send them my class notes from some day, a picture from one of my vacations or of my roommates or something like that.
In return, Tolzien has received a CD of the class singing On, Wisconsin, a care package full of food, which he notes all of his roommates ate, and a picture scrap book full of Bucky Badger drawings.
While the program is a fun activity for the students, it is also teaching the kids valuable lessons at a young age. The class also corresponds with Sue Brinson, who is a library services assistant at College Library on the UW campus. She talks with the class about the importance of reading and how it is a valuable skill for college success.
The children know the work they are doing now in first and second grade is the beginning foundation of all their future learning, said Barb Grisaffe, who co-teaches the first and second graders at Willow Bend. We strive to do quality work and talk about continuous improvement.
Tolzien enjoys working with this group of kids but an added bonus is that its at his former grade school. He said a number of his teachers are still at the school and its great to be a part of a program that he wishes he had when he was a first or second grader.
I know when I was in first or second grade, I would have thought it was the coolest thing for a college kid to come into our classroom, Tolzien said. Me being a little sports jock, it would have been awesome to have a football guy come in. For me, I know what I would have wanted when I was in first and second grade, so for me to be able to come give something back like that is great. Its probably more exciting for me.
Working with first and second graders undoubtedly brings a lot of laughter and Tolzien has had his share of funny stories while being involved in the program.
Ill go in there and get just the most random questions, he said. They always want to know about Bucky. Its unbelievable! They ask me, `When was the last time you saw Bucky on campus
One time I told them we were going to the Capital One Bowl and I got a picture from one of them with a big bowl of cereal on it and it said `Good luck at your bowl game. I still have the picture back in my place.
When it was announced that Tolzien would be the Badgers starter Saturday, there wasnt a group more excited than the first and second graders at Willow Bend. Once they heard the good news, they e-mailed Tolzien to congratulate him.
For Tolzien, he couldnt be happier to have them on his side.
Im just thrilled that my teachers came out of their way to ask me to get involved, he said. Ive learned a lot, and for me to just be able to share some of my college experiences with someone else, thats been great.
We have galleryID=468"> --> a small photo gallery from one of Scott's visit to Willow Bend School. He is also our latest player featured in the Three and Out video segment. mid=3580"> --> You can check out the video here.