Bertelkamp Center finishes successful first semester, looks to expand

While Bearden students adopt the stars of the football field and the basketball court as their temporary heroes, it is sometimes tough to remember that they have responsibilities outside of the athletic arena. And for many of those athletes, it is a struggle to balance their commitment to their sport and their commitment to their academics. “The student athletes find it hard to balance everything – having practice, then coming home and getting all their work done, then having workouts in the morning,” social studies teacher Mr. Cody Martin said. A little more than six months ago, Bearden alumnus and Vol Network commentator Bert Bertelkamp donated $10,000 to create a monumental program at BHS. On Aug. 24, Bearden held a ceremony in The Pit to announce the opening of the Bert Bertelkamp Center for Academic Excellence . All student-athletes with a “D” or an “F” in any class, after each grading period, are required to attend academic assistance sessions Monday through Thursday from 7-8 in the morning. Through the first semester, 17 percent of Bearden’s student athletes were required to attend sessions. “Raising the standards and expectations of our athletes, I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” athletics director Mr. Scott Witt said. “I think it can only help.” What is more interesting, however, than the kids who are required to go is the number of non-required kids who come for help. “A lot of the athletes wanted to actually get their grades up,” Mr. Martin said. “It wasn’t that they didn’t care or didn’t want to; they just didn’t know sometimes what was the best way. “A lot of them, even though they got their grades up to where they could leave, still stayed just to bring up their grades across all their classes, which was exciting to see.” And while the learning center tutors are encouraged to see athletes stay in the program even after a good report card, they also want to see non-athletes who want to help join the program. “I think it was a little bit underutilized,” Mr. Witt said. “Basically we’re opening it more up to the general student body. If they want to come in and get tutoring, they’re welcome to do it.” Even as the center tries to help a larger percentage of the student body with grades and standardized test preparation, it feels like it has had plenty of success helping the kids who have come in. “It helps them to get back on task and keep their grades up,” head learning center tutor Mr. McHardy said. “It’s a motivator; students would rather not get up an hour earlier, so they’ll take that time. “I think they’re really getting some help. The attitude changes after a few times that they’re here.” And once the attitude changes, so do the grades. “A lot of them think they’re too far behind to actually catch up, but when you are in there for two weeks you are amazed by how much work you get done, how much time you have to study,” Mr. Martin said. “What I love about it is that it really does build the confidence of the student athletes that they can bring their grades up.” And that is what Mr. Bertelkamp’s generous donation was meant for. Jacob Steimer is the sports editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.