LANSING | It’s not every day that a professional athlete and the center fielder for the New York Yankees takes the time to talk to high school students about the quality of the toilets they use each day.
Yet that was the case Wednesday when Curtis Granderson visited Thornton Fractional South High School, from which he graduated in 1999, to meet with students about how they can improve their lives and the quality of their community.
“I have reached where I am in life, I’m at this particular place because of T.F. South and Lynwood and Lansing,” Granderson said in a talk with members of the Student Council and the Athletic Captains Club.
“This is a good school that provided me with opportunities,” Granderson said. “I want to give (these students) the same type of opportunities I had.”
Granderson met with the students in two groups, and their discussions evolved into sessions in which the students determined what issues were of concern to them, although Granderson tried to get the students to think in terms of issues in which they could contribute to the community.
Some issues were academic, such as the use of textbooks as opposed to digital tablets in classes, while others involved athletic programs and the quality of facilities, such as locker rooms at T.F. South.
At one point, students were complaining about the quality of cafeteria food, the lack of clean toilet facilities and, as one student put it, “old gross water” coming from the water coolers.
Granderson said he did not object to those lines of discussion, thinking the subjects were totally appropriate.
“I remember that nasty bathroom and having to remember which ones were OK to use,” he said. “It’s legitimate to talk about. Comfort as a student — they’re here eight hours a day. It matters.”
The programs were coordinated by English teacher Ken Reynolds, who was Granderson’s baseball coach when he played for the Rebels athletic programs. Reynolds said Granderson speaking to 75 students Wednesday was likely to be the first of several such groups the athlete would participate in.
Granderson said that, for the time being, he wanted to focus his attention on the local schools that he attended: Nathan Hale Elementary and Heritage Middle schools, along with T.F. South and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Although he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of someday visiting other schools to share his perspective — perhaps even T.F. South’s rival, Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City.
“I’m not going there now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go ever,” he said.