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Northeastern provides 850 ‘future Huskies’ with hoops, hospitality and hope during 14th annual Boston Public School Field Day

Boston Public Schools students cheering on a basketball game.
Scenes during the 14th annual Boston Public Schools Field Day held on Northeastern’s Boston campus. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

They did gymnastics. They ran races. They rolled on the Cabot Cage astroturf and then shocked their friends with static electricity. They yelled, laughed, joked and created the kind of organized chaos in which 850 kids excel.

And that was before the game began.

“They were excited,” Janina Rackard, a seventh grade teacher at the Curley School in Jamaica Plain — and a Northeastern grad —  said, laughing, as she watched her students run throughout the cage. “They’ve been waiting to get in here.”

Hundreds of Boston Public Schools students packed into Cabot Physical Education Center on Northeastern’s Boston campus Friday for the 14th annual Boston Public Schools Field Day. 

The event is organized by the university’s Office of City and Community Engagement and brings BPS students to campus to watch and cheer on the women’s basketball team as well as get a glimpse of life on a university campus. 

“The biggest part is getting to see what could be for them — knowing that this is the next thing after high school,” Rackard said. 

The day began with more than a dozen buses disgorging students to Cabot Cage. Students quickly donned “Future Northeastern Husky” T-shirts and took advantage of the extra bounce provided by the astroturf. 

Alton Monteiro, a community field coordinator at Orchard Gardens K-8, joined his students in the games — albeit more successfully in the races than the front handsprings. It was Monteiro’s first time participating in the trip, and he viewed it as an opportunity for his students.

“It’s an opportunity for them to come, take a break from school, take a look at a college campus, and explore and think about the future,” Monteiro said, taking a break from sprints. 

Nicole Coyne, a sixth grade English teacher at the Curley School, agreed.

“The kids get a chance to get out of the classroom and see a college where they could potentially go in the future,” Coyne said. 

She added that seeing a women’s basketball game was also good motivation for students — particularly student athletes — to see that they could have a future in sports … as long as they kept up with their studies.

Boston Public Schools athletic director Avery Esdule, Northeastern women’s volleyball coach Lenika Vazquez, and women’s track and field coach Tramaine Shaw reinforced this message.

“I used sports to connect to people around me, I used sports to build a family,” Vazquez told the students. “But I couldn’t play sports without my education.”

And before leading students in Northeastern cheers, Shaw discussed how sports had enabled her to attend Northeastern for free.

“But it all starts in the classroom,” Shaw said, explaining that she selects student athletes not only on their ability to fit in on the team, but their ability to survive the rigorous academic curriculum at Northeastern.

“Be present, stay in school,” Shaw continued. “Maybe I will see some of you in a couple of years.”

Then 850 kids grabbed box lunches and filed into Solomon Court.

Zyonie, a seventh grader at Curley, was looking forward to the game. He said his favorite part of basketball was “dunking.”

Soriyah, a sixth grade student at Orchard Gardens, was also excited for the game — especially being a female basketball player herself. 

“I want to see how other girls play, if they have skills the boys don’t, and see if I can learn those,” Soriyah said.

Even Boston City Councilor at-Large Henry A. Santana was in the crowd, reminiscing upon his own participation in a BPS Field Day at Northeastern years earlier. 

Santana described the event as a “win-win” — a way to keep students engaged and expose them to sports and a college campus.

“These are the things you’re going to remember,” Santana said. He also praised Northeastern for holding such events, saying it could be a model for other schools. 

And as Northeastern mascot Paws riled up the crowd just prior to the game, the cheers were deafening. They continued that way — from Northeastern’s first basket to the final seconds…

Alas, Northeastern lost the game to Monmouth University of New Jersey, 50-41. 

But the final score appeared to have little damper on the students’ enthusiasm or that of their hosts.

“These are our kids and our neighbors, and there are so many parts of Northeastern that make this happen to welcome our neighbors for a really great inspirational — and aspirational — day,” said John Tobin, vice president of City and Community Engagement at Northeastern.

He described the day as gratifying for all involved.

“It’s only one day,” Tobin continued. “But the effects are felt long after this.”