Groundhog wanders outside the bubble

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Jake Schaner, Contributing Writer

First-grade students at Uplift Meridian Preparatory School recently received a visit from the University of Dallas Groundhog, a treat normally reserved for UD students on campus.

Photo courtesy of Joe De La TorreThe UD Groundhog makes a surprise visit to first-graders at Uplift Meridian Preparatory School.
Photo courtesy of Joe De La Torre
The UD Groundhog makes a surprise visit to first-graders at Uplift Meridian Preparatory School.

Teacher Joe De La Torre, a 2011 graduate of UD, invited the Groundhog to meet his students and congratulate them on having reached their “good report goal” of 25 reports of good behavior.

The Groundhog’s travel agent, Mike McEwen of the Office of Admissions, scheduled a date for the meeting to take place at UMPS.

“UMPS is a college-preparatory school,” said De La Torre, “so teachers name their classrooms after their alma maters and come up with a mascot for the students; we’re the UD Groundhogs.”

Needless to say, the UD Groundhog bounded into a room filled with eager – though surprised – fans. To help the first-graders overcome their initial shock at the larger-than-life plush animal, the Groundhog inaugurated a dance party that was met with shouts and cheers from the students.

De La Torre’s students are not unfamiliar with UD’s love for groundhogs. The classroom’s mascot has taken the shape of a stuffed groundhog affectionately named “Groundhog Mike.” “Mike” sits atop Mr. De La Torre’s desk during the week and each Friday gets to go home for the weekend with the best-behaved student of that week. When the student returns on Monday, he recounts the adventures shared with “Mike.”

Groundhog 1
Photo courtesy of Joe De La Torre
The Groundhog laments his inability to join the students in snack time.

Even the Uplift school program is familiar with UD students and their unique school spirit. North Hills Preparatory School in Las Colinas is also a member of the Uplift program, which has over a dozen schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Many students of the University of Dallas have found employment at the NHPS aftercare program, currently headed by UD’s own Matt Dixon. De La Torre, Dixon’s predecessor, had worked at NHPS for three years, two years heading the aftercare program and one year working as a full-time substitute teacher as well. When Uplift established its new campus of Meridian Prep in Fort Worth last year, De La Torre applied for a full-time teaching position.

Though an economics major during his undergraduate years, De La Torre feels he has been well prepared by UD to meet the new challenges of being on the “other side” of the desk. Said De La Torre, “At Uplift, our goal is to instruct the whole of the student into becoming a scholar. The liberal arts education of UD equips the students to enter other academic fields, and, with the Core curriculum as a foundation, I am able to bring my education to my scholars.”

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