Making a difference in children's lives
Andre Carter is making his mark on the football field, racking up national and
As a linebacker for the Panthers
, Andre holds several school records and is closing in on the LC career record
for tackles. An All-American, he receives weekly and season honors. His fumble
recovery resulting in a touchdown was named the
USA South Athletic Conference's Play of the Week
for Oct. 30.
But ask the senior Early Childhood Education major from Villa Rica what is most
important to him, and he won't say football. Instead, he will talk about his kids.
During his class's two-week opening school experience, he worked in fifth-grade
teacher Christine Nobley's room at Whitesville Road Elementary School.
But when his two weeks were up, Andre didn't leave.
"He had started a relationship with 85 students who just really started to get
to know him when his time with us was over," Nobley says. "He found a way to make
a more lasting impact on the lives of those children, in whom he saw himself."
He continued volunteering and working with the students.
"I love the kids," he says. "They are easy to get along with, and they are so
impressionable and honest. From the very first day in the classroom, I fell in
love with them, and they fell in love with me."
Andre also was inspired by Nobley.
"She's amazing," he says. "The relationships she builds with these kids are incredible."
Nobley is just as impressed with him.
"Andre Carter is a man of integrity, honor and character," she says. "He
is kind, responsible, compassionate and humble. There just aren't enough positive
adjectives I can use to describe him."
Andre says being an athlete gives him a way to relate to the students and build
his own connections.
"People tend to look up to athletes, especially young males," he says. "I can
go to a kid and say, 'C'mon now, let's get it right; let's get it together,' and
most times, they'll listen to me. I can take what Mrs. Nobley has already taught
them and add to that. The things I believe in and that were instilled in me from
an early age have taken me a long way, and I want to share that with these kids."
That connection is evident at every Panther home football game.
"I get them tickets to the football games and they root for me," he says. "I have
my own little fan section – they make signs and hold them up for me. They just
make me smile. It's ridiculously crazy and I love them to death."
Nobley says the school has gone "Carter Crazy."
"Boys who had never behaved in school now sit perfectly in their seats, hoping
for one of those coveted tickets," she says. "After the games, Andre comes
over to our group in the corner of the field and makes the kids feel like
they are on the red carpet. He thanks them for coming and supporting him,
thanks them for behaving and earning the privilege to attend the game, accepts
hugs, handshakes and high-fives, and poses for endless pictures."
Andre strongly believes building relationships with students is imperative to
reaching them in the classroom.
"I like to just sit down and talk to them, and listen to them. They hear me –
they know that I'm human and they talk to me like they're talking
to their friends. Once they get that relationship with you, that's when you can
Many of the students at Whitesville Road don't have positive role models in their
lives – especially male role models. And those are the children Andre wants to
"These students just need somebody to love them," he says. "Before they need a
teacher, they need somebody to love them."
Andre had originally planned to be a physical education teacher and coach, but
that changed once he began his studies at LaGrange.
"I started to get into math and reading and knew I want to teach anything – third
grade, fourth grade, reading, math, it doesn't matter," he says with a grin. "I
just want to teach."
But Andre's first months at LaGrange weren't exactly smooth sailing.
"When I started here as a freshman, I wasn't ready for college," he says. "I thought
I had it all. I was on the football team and everything was going my way – until
I got in the classroom."
There, Andre struggled with his first-semester courses.
"I didn't know how to study; I didn't know how to manage my time," he says. "I
didn't know how to put aside football and to know when to stop watching film and
work on a paper."
That's when a life-altering moment happened.
"I went home for Christmas break and my mom asked about my grades. I knew they
weren't going to be good, but I pulled them up (on the computer) to show her. And
that's when she got serious.
"She told me, 'Look, you are going to go back your second semester and you're
going to get your stuff together or you're not coming back home.' I don't really
think she would put me out, but I knew she meant what she said."
Andre says he'll never forget his mother's words.
"I just remember looking in my mama's eyes and her telling me, 'Andre, you cannot
come home. There's not much for you here. You'd get a job somewhere and you'd just
be stuck here like everybody else. You can't do it. '"
That's when he realized it was not just about him.
"A lot of people are looking up to me and looking for me to do something special,"
he says. "I'm the first one in my family to go to college, and they are all looking
for me to graduate. It's been like a stepping stone for my family – my sister is
going to college this year."
Andre listened to his mom and returned to campus determined to make her proud.
His grades improved semester by semester, and he became more involved with his
studies. He says it's been an amazing journey, but it all goes back to his mother.
"She's always been a rock for me, keeping me grounded," he says. "I knew I couldn't
let her down. It's a great accomplishment for me to see my mama smile and see how
proud she is of me. It's worth a million bucks."
Nobley says the effect Andre has had on her students is immeasurable.
"To say Andre is a role model is completely insufficient in describing the depth
of his impact on our boys," she says. "He is a hero – the embodiment of everything
they can ever hope to be and to achieve. It is my deepest prayer that each
of my boys become half the man that Andre Carter is."