SANFORD — At Tramway Elementary Thursday, fourth grader Tyjon Snipes tucked in his shirt to be just like Tremayne Smith.
Smith, a senior and the head drum major for the marching band at East Carolina University, spoke to students Thursday at Tramway Elementary about staying positive and being motivated.
Many of the children recognized Smith if they’ve attended football games at ECU with their parents, said Lynda Cummings, classroom curriculum coach at Tramway.
Smith, who has been the drum major for three years, toured the school and introduced himself to various classes. Most had seen video during their music classes of his work as drum major and requested that he show them his signature backflip.
Smith obliged and did multiple backflips for the different classes, grinning and laughing as he saw the happy looks on their faces.
“I still think I’m more excited than they are,” he said.
Smith also spoke at the Southern Lee High School Marching Band banquet Thursday night. When Tramway administrators heard he would be in town for that, they asked if he’d be willing to talk to the elementary students during the day.
For Smith, giving back feels natural.
“It’s important because a lot of the opportunities I’ve gotten were from people who took time out of their time and invested in me and my school,” he said, adding that he told God “if you let me get to that position, I’ll do the same.”
Smith said he’s amazed at how much the children look up to him. One student said he’s Smith’s biggest fan.
“This is a reminder that you’re touching people and don’t even realize it sometimes,” he said. “There’s so many ways to give back.”
As he stopped in different classrooms, Smith talked to the children about their future. Some of the students wore ECU t-shirts or purple and gold bows in their hair.
“You’ve gotta go to college, you’ve gotta make good grades,” Smith told a group of first graders.
He also taught different groups what to do at ECU football games when the team scores, putting a hand over one eye like a patch, making a “hook” with one finger and yelling, “Arghhh!”
“Oh, we’re having a ball. This is my field day,” Smith said, smiling. And the children got a kick out of him, too. Children shouted “Hi, Tremayne!” when he stopped in the cafeteria and they “ooh”ed and “aah”ed when he mentioned being a college student.
Judy Spivey with the Southern Lee Band Boosters said Smith is a strong role model for the students.
“It’s just motivational for them to see a young person set goals and meet them,” Spivey said. “He’s a good, positive role model in today’s world.”
Kindergarten teacher Sarah Slate agreed.
“I think it’s good for them to see people doing positive things with a positive attitude,” Slate said. Since the children had been learning about Smith for a week before he came to the school, they were amazed to see him, she added.
“It’s like seeing a celebrity to them,” she said.