WAYNE, MICH. -- On Friday afternoon, an enthusiastic student body of over 200 welcomed Red Wings defenseman Nick Jensen to St. Mary Catholic School in Wayne, Mich.
Jensen addressed the students as part of the Detroit Red Wings School Assembly Program, which not only introduces the students to the sport of hockey, but also promotes the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle.
Students also received an interactive lesson on exercise, healthy eating, the issue of bullying, celebrating cultural differences, the importance of education and saving for college.
The program concluded with a spirited hockey shootout match between the students and their teachers.
"I thought it went really well, it was exciting coming out here," Jensen said. "I have never done one of these before, the kids bring a great energy, it's really awesome.
"It's an amazing opportunity to guide kids because they're so young and to guide them on how to get through life. We're preaching about staying active and eating healthy. It's really important for kids when they are really young; they're good habits to have as they grow old."
From the moment the assembly began, the students, who ranged from kindergarten through eighth grade, were captivated and eager participants, especially when it came to asking Jensen questions.
"I thought the questions were great, I really appreciate their interest, they were all great," Jensen said. "Even the kids that didn't ask questions, they were all great -- really loud and excited, I loved it."
Jensen wasn't the only one who thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.
"It's inspiring, because I can see what I can become if I can work hard enough," said Andrea, a seventh grader, about having Jensen at her school. "I definitely learned that eating healthier is more important because I had cookies in my lunch today, so I wasn't feeling that energized.
"I will try and eat healthier and get more exercise if I want to be on a professional sports team."
Every St. Mary's student received an educational Red Wings folder containing information on college savings strategies and each teacher received a RISE Teacher Kit to help students explore the cultures of the eight different countries from which the Red Wing players hail.
"It was really cool and it was great. The students had fun and they learned a lot," middle school teacher Debbie Armstrong said. "They enjoyed meeting a professional athlete from Detroit. It's a really good program."
Armstrong feels when a student hears from a pro athlete about exercising, a healthy diet, that bullying is unacceptable and we should embrace our cultural differences, it really has an impact because pro athletes are emulated and kids listen to what they have to say.
Seventh grader Anna was ecstatic to see Jensen.
"It felt really cool and amazing because that is my big brother's favorite Red Wings player," she said. "I was inspired by him, too."
After the assembly concluded, Jensen was asked what he hoped the students learned and took away from his appearance.
"I really wanted to give the thought in their mind that they can do anything they set their minds to," Jensen said. "They are so young and their whole future is ahead of them and anything they can do in the future, I want them to believe that they can do it, that it is actually possible."
Based on the reaction of the St. Mary Blue Knights, Jensen just scored his biggest goal of the season.