Coventry coach leads college students in group service, health packages
By late morning last Tuesday, the temperature at Coventry High School had already risen to the high 80s.
But Devon McAfee and the college students who had gathered for community service were not deterred.
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In front of the school, a handful of students cleared a retention pond to prepare for a memorial with the names of former students next week.
Outside, a larger group, led by McAfee, was clearing weeds and debris from another retention basin.
The students belong to a nonprofit club founded by McAfee called Comet Unity. Another club – Comet Strong – encourages members to improve their physical fitness. Both incorporate the district comet theme applied to athletics and district literature.
The clubs had an iteration before the pandemic that fizzled out when the pandemic came, McAfee said. Superintendent Lisa Blough had asked McAfee before the arrival of COVID-19 to set up the groups to include the students.
McAfee said he was excited about the job.
“We have great kids, hard-working kids,” he said. “If we can involve more students, we can spread positivity.”
Both groups have been reconfigured after the pandemic left many students with little to do last summer. In his view, they are part of the resurgence of the Coventry Local School District after a long battle with tax restrictions and a former soccer coach scandal.
“We need something positive,” said McAfee. “Now is the time to start a new chapter. We have had some adverse moments, but it actually made us stronger. “
McAfee, head coach of the high school basketball team, has no shortage of enthusiasm.
Students and parents have responded well to the initiative, he said, with 15 to 20 students in the Unity club and 10 to 20 students in the Strong. Students range from second graders to high school students.
The programs started in early June and will continue for a week.
Along the way, Unity students helped beautify Firestone Metro Park by painting benches and landscaping, helped landscaping and cleaning a local business, and cleared debris from a creek in Portage Lakes parish church.
Members of the strong club have worked with representatives from the U.S. Marines, Navy, and Ohio Army National Guard.
McAfee said the Strong students took advantage of a physical education program that he learned about through his wife.
“I was wondering if our health club could do that,” he said. “I tested it and every week they got stronger.”
During a session with the Marines, the students played dodgeball.
“He had a lot of fun with the kids,” said McAfee.
He said he plans to end the season with a dodgeball / kickball tournament and pizza.
Students at Tuesday’s Unity session said the program was worth it.
Chase Taylor, 14, said a session at Greenlawn Memorial Park became personal when he found the grave of his great-grandfather “Digger” Odell.
“I wasn’t sure where he was buried,” said Chase. “It was a bit emotional”
McAfee’s son Kamden said he enjoys helping people.
“I like to do it because it helps the community,” he said.
Brayden Clark said the projects helped the students involved “grow together a little better”.
“You get to know new people every day,” he says.
Several members of the basketball team are part of the clubs, and assistant basketball coach Dillon Angle, a former Coventry School student, helped out.
McAfee says the programs create a positive experience for students and the district.
“I wanted to show the students when we can all work together, we can achieve anything,” he said. “My goal is for it to grow and grow and grow.”
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.