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Van Horn student already giving back

By Bill Althaus bill.althaus@examiner.net

When David Ballard walks into Sarah Simmons’ sixth-grade social studies class at Nowlin Middle School, students giggle and squirm in their seats, their smiles obscured by their masks.

“David’s here,” they say in unison, “David’s back today!”

Van Horn High School senior David Ballard is a standout on the Falcons football team, the captain of the school’s Scholar Bowl team and a student teacher in Sarah Simmons’ sixth-grade class at Nowlin Middle School in Independence.

Ballard, a 6-foot-0, 300-pound lineman for the Van Horn High School football team, is a celebrity at his former middle school, and it has nothing to do with a physique that helps him dominate in the trenches.

“Our students love David,” said Simmons, who was Ballard’s sixth-grade teacher. “He’s a big deal, and it has nothing to do with his size or the fact that he plays football.”

“They love him because he cares so much about them, and he’s such a positive influence. He went to school here, and he cares so much about this school that he is back teaching here and that makes an impact on our students.”

Ballard is in the second year of the Independence School District’s Pathways Program. This Phase II allows him to teach and work with the students.

“Last year, he was part of the Pathways Program, where he learned about what it means to be a teacher,” Simmons said. “This year, he is part of Pathways II,and I don’t know who enjoys it more – David, our students or me. I am so proud of him.”

While he looks like an offensive lineman, Ballard is also the captain of the Falcons Scholar Bowl team and a leader on the playing field and in the classroom.

“David has always been a great student,” Van Horn football coach William Harris said. “I think the area that I have seen him grow the most in his four years is as an athlete. Again, he has always been a great student. He has always been dependable as a player as far as showing up, but in the last couple of years he has dedicated himself to not just being here everyday but to getting better as an athlete every day.”

It’s that type of dedication that makes Ballard special.

“I want to be respected on the field, in our hallways and in the classroom,” Ballard said. “I’ve already been offered two scholarships, and they are both for academics.”

“Academics are so important to me. I want to make great grades and one day, I want to be a teacher. Who knows, maybe I’ll teach here at Nowlin.”

That goal is no surprise to his coach.

“He is definitely someone that our kids can look up to in the hallways and on the field,” Harris added. “I think every coach would tell you that he is the true definition of a student-athlete.”

“He works hard on the field and in the classroom, and that is all you can ask for from a high school kid.”

When asked about coaches and teachers who had made an impact in Ballard’s life, the list is long on talent and short on numbers.

“My second grade teacher, Mr. Tim Moore, when I was in the Grandview School District,” said Ballard.

“I was getting sloppy in fifth grade and Mr. David Scott made a big impact on me. Of course, Ms. Simmons – and all my teachers and coaches at Van Horn.

“You don’t have enough time for me to tell you the impact Van Horn has had on my life. With Coach Harris and Coach (Chris) Corrie (the Falcons activities director) – going to Van Horn has been a life-changing experience for me, and I’d love to be that teacher one day who changes the life of one of my students.”

“That would be so special.”