Stu­dents taught to show re­spect

Pro­gram teaches ele­men­tary stu­dents to show re­spect to oth­ers

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Post ppost@digitalfirstmedia.com @paul­v­post on Twit­ter

SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. » Rich Johns feels a spe­cial con­nec­tion with Aaron Judge each time the Yan­kee slug­ger steps up to the plate.

Judge’s uni­form num­ber 99 quickly be­came one of the most rec­og­niz­able and pop­u­lar this year, dur­ing a record-set­ting cam­paign that saw him blast 52 home runs, the most ever by a rookie.

But to Johns, a well-known for­mer Saratoga Springs teacher and leg­endary ten­nis coach, the nu­meral 99 means some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent. It’s all about what’s in­side each per­son -- the kind­ness they show to­ward oth­ers ev­ery minute of the day.

“What’s your 99?” Johns asked chil­dren at Tan­gle­wood Ele­men­tary School in South Glens Falls on Thurs­day. “If you can learn to both say and give kind­ness, then you have a grand slam.”

The “99” con­cept is in­te­gral to the Act With Re­spect Al­ways cam­paign Johns founded, which takes him to speak­ing en­gage­ments at schools and uni­ver­si­ties through­out the coun­try. He came up with the “99” idea sev­eral years ago. It’s not a take­off on Judge’s uni­form num­ber.

But Johns be­lieves the Yan­kee All-Star ex­hibits the kind of be­hav­ior traits ev­ery kid should have.

“I think he has great char­ac­ter,” he said.

Dur­ing Wed­nes­day night’s do-or-die play­off game between the Yan­kees and In­di­ans, Hall of Fame pitcher and broad­cast an­a­lyst John Smoltz com­mented about Judge’s re­spect for the game, and oth­ers.

Af­ter a prodi­gious 500-foot home run, he rounds the bases with­out taunt­ing the pitcher. Dur­ing a hit­ting slump, he con­trib­utes in other ways with­out quit­ting or mak­ing ex­cuses.

Re­cently, Johns sent copies of his “Act With Re­spect Al­ways” book and “99” T-shirts to Judge, ex­plain­ing what the pro­gram is all about.

“I sent them to Yan­kee Sta­dium and to his home in Cal­i­for­nia,” Johns said. “I hear that he al­ways re­sponds.”

Of course, Judge and the Yan­kees are busy now get­ting ready for their Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against the Hous­ton Astros that be­gins Fri­day. But later this fall, Johns would be thrilled to hear back from the Bronx Bomber su­per­star.

Johns’ busy sched­ule has taken him through­out the area this fall. On Satur­day, he’s pre­sent­ing a pro­gram at Saratoga Springs Pub­lic Li­brary. On Fri­day, Oct. 20, he’ll be speak­ing at the 37th an­nual New York State Mid­dle School As­so­ci­a­tion Con­fer­ence at Maple Av­enue Mid­dle School in Saratoga Springs.

In Novem­ber, he’s headed to Duke Univer­sity to ad­dress a Fresh­men Ac­tion Group.

In con­trast to “99,” Johns also stresses the im­por­tance of the num­ber “1,” which is all about ac­cept­ing some­one.

Some­times, peo­ple shut oth­ers out be­cause of their out­ward ap­pear­ance, race or eth­nic­ity.

“I want you to con­nect to peo­ple,” he said. “It takes time, it’s not easy. The kinder you are the more you ac­cept some­one. Can you be kind all the time? I think we can.”

PAUL POST -- PPOST@DIGITALFIRSTMEDIA.COM

Rich Johns, cen­ter, presents a “99” T-shirt to chil­dren at Tan­gle­wood Ele­men­tary School in South Glens Falls on Thurs­day. His “99” con­cept en­cour­ages kids to treat oth­ers with kind­ness all the time.

PAUL POST -- PPOST@DIGITALFIRSTMEDIA.COM

Rich Johns, right, a for­mer Saratoga Springs teacher and Act With Re­spect Al­ways pro­gram founder, presents a book to Trish Aday, a teacher’s aide at Tan­gle­wood Ele­men­tary School in South Glens Falls on Thurs­day.

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