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D118 students cheer on basketball teams

Mar. 19—DANVILLE — As soon as Danville School District 118 students stepped off the bus and entered the Mary Miller Center at Danville Area Community College, the smiles came out and the hands went up.

They were ready to give high fives to Mick Jaguar, the DACC mascot, welcoming the students to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Men's Basketball Championship on Monday.

The tournament this year isn't the same week as the Danville school district's spring break as it has been for many years in the past. The school district's spring break is next week.

MaryEllen Bunton, curriculum director with the school district, and whose husband, Tim, is DACC athletic director, said students will be bused to the games all week and some basketball teams will be visiting schools too.

"There will be 18 buses on Friday," MaryEllen Bunton said.

MaryEllen Bunton said there are multiple benefits from having the students attend the games.

They can learn about the different states the teams are coming from, such as Florida this year for the first time.

"It's just neat to have the schools here," MaryEllen Bunton said. "The country is coming to them (the students)."

In addition, she said a lot of students want to play basketball and can learn about going to DACC or another college, and maybe they too would get to travel and play.

"It fits along beautifully with AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination)," MaryEllen Bunton said about helping students achieve and with college readiness.

Bunton said when she was a teacher in the 1990s at South View Middle School, United Tribes Technical College (an Indian school from Bismarck, N.D.) came to her classroom. It just so happens that United Tribes Technical College is back this year for the tournament for the first time since 2002.

"We had the opportunity for the teams to come and visit us at the schools," she said about when she was teaching.

Being a social studies teacher, and with geography, she had her students study where the teams were from. Then the students met the players from the places they were learning about.

She said the United Tribes team had players from all different Native American Tribes and the players explained their experiences living on reservations.

Bunton said this was an incredible experience for her students to learn more than what they could read about in textbooks. The students realized the world was so big, she said.

MaryEllen Bunton said all Danville schools will have students attending the games this week.

School district officials thanked First Student bus company for transporting the students.

However, for Meade Park Elementary, students and the basketball players can walk between the school and DACC.

"We're really excited," MaryEllen Bunton said about this week.

Monday saw students from Mark Denman Elementary, South View Upper Elementary and Southwest Elementary schools attend games.

Meade Park Principal Tanner DeLaurier said they have students going to games on Wednesday and Friday.

DeLaurier said the last time he attended the tournament with students at South View, was in 2017.

He said they're looking forward to it. It's also the first time on a college campus for many of the students, he added.

When the players come to the school, he said the students treat them like super stars. Students ask the players for their autographs and give them high fives.

"It's great," DeLaurier said of the interactions. It's always fun to hear the students comment on how tall the players are too, he added.