Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tauscher Getting Children’s Attention

February 24, 2009

Growing up, Mark Tauscher enjoyed reading all sorts of children’s books. Nowadays, the Green Bay Packer still reads his fair share of children’s books, but he prefers political fiction.

Through his TRIFECTA foundation — Tauscher’s Reading Initiative For Every Child To Achieve — the offensive tackle promotes education and reading to children throughout Wisconsin schools. He provides grants to schools and frequently visits classrooms to read to the students.

“Whatever you want to say about NFL football players, you go in there and you get those kids’ eyes and their attention,” Tauscher said. “You try to not just read the book and have the kids excited while you’re reading the book. You also try to get the life lesson out of it and make sure that the kids understand it.”

A native of Wisconsin, Tauscher has long understood the importance of reading. He overcame struggles with reading in grade school and used academics as a path to succeed in football. In fact, he was not originally offered a football scholarship to the University of Wisconsin and instead had to walk onto the team.

“I always try to emphasize to kids that the athletic part of it has been great, but the academic part allowed me to get there,” he said. “It’s not just about football. It’s about making sure you do it the right way, going down the right path. On the educational path, you want to make sure you try to maximize that as much you can.”

Playing in his home state, Tauscher is fortunate to have the opportunity to give back to the communities he has been in and around his whole life.

“It’s just been fun to give back and to get out in the community because I’ve always been a part of it,” he said. “I was doing the exact same thing these kids are doing. It’s how I grew up.”

In college, Tauscher earned his degree in history and continued in a master’s program in educational administration. Once he completed his master’s degree in 2003, Tauscher began looking for ways to promote learning. He contacted professors at Wisconsin and spoke with school superintendents.

“We tried to come up with different ideas that would fund programs on a small level that would try to make the most impact of the money that was made,” Tauscher said.
Tauscher, 31, is constantly looking for ways to improve the foundation’s work. He recently shifted the focus solely from Milwaukee schools to the rural areas, where funding is hard to come by.

“We’re trying to constantly look for the best way to help,” Tauscher said. “What we’ve found over the last couple of years is that the rural schools—those towns have been hit really hard.

“The education systems have been really underfunded and they need a lot of help as well. It’s a tough environment right now for schools and anything that we can do to help is even that much more appreciated.”

Tauscher, who has spent his entire nine-year career in the NFL with the Packers, said that the teachers appreciate his appearances as much as the students do.

“When you go into a classroom to read to kids, you just see the energy level pick up and you see what it does for the teachers to help propel their students to advance,” he said.

Through his foundation, Tauscher offers several special programs and events, including EXCEL grants worth $1,500 that aid schools and children. Two years ago, he also offered students entry into a raffle if they met certain reading benchmarks. The six winners of the raffle got to spend a day at Lambeau Field for a Packers game. Tauscher said seeing the fun kids have at a game is one of the most gratifying aspects about giving back to the community.

To fund TRIFECTA’s programs and grants, Tauscher holds an annual golf tournament featuring many of his Green Bay teammates.

“The support is outstanding. You cannot have a great event unless you have the participation of your teammates,” he said. “Everybody helps and pitches in.”

For their part, Tauscher’s teammates recognize the work he does off the field. After being sidelined with a knee injury this past season, Tauscher was named the Packers’ Ed Block Courage award winner and their nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

His teammates also help add to his library of children’s books. Donald Driver recently put out a book for kids, “Quickie Makes the Team,” and Tauscher can’t get enough of it.

Said Tauscher, “I just read it to my nieces over the holidays and that’s a book that has a great message.”

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