As the mascot of the University of South Carolina, Cocky strives to make a difference in his community. He is the face of Cocky’s Reading Express, a “critical initiative dedicated to making sure that all SC families are literate in every sense of the word” as described by Kim Jeffcoat, the current program coordinator. For a while, South Carolina as a state has been known to have literacy issues which are especially prevalent in elementary grades. Former USC Student Body President Tommy Preston was particularly troubled when faced with this information and in his term as President he started Cocky’s Reading Express. As part of a great university with wonderful opportunities he said it “[saddened him] greatly to know that in the 21st Century, there are still children in our state who don’t have books in their home and go through school not knowing how to read.”
When formulating the idea of Cocky’s Reading Express as a way to combat illiteracy, Preston immediately thought of Cocky as the perfect bird to lead the initiative. According to Preston, “it was a no-brainer to use Cocky. He is universally liked; not intimidating like other university mascots. Plus, with his enthusiastic and pleasant personality, I knew that he could make reading exciting for children in a way that no one else could.”
On a week-to-week basis, Cocky’s Reading Express makes trips around the state of South Carolina with student volunteers from USC. As Cocky and the volunteers visit schools, they read to children and hand out books. Sprouted from the initiative started by Tommy Preston, Cocky’s Reading Express is now a project with huge involvement on campus. According to Kim Jeffcoat, “Cocky and his Cocky’s Reading Express crew have spent thousands of hours on the road and given out 51,500 books!” By doing so, Cocky not only nurtures literacy in places where young students might not get much motivation or fun from reading but he also “excites the families that Cocky’s Reading Express serves, encouraging them to read every day and be lifelong learners” said Jeffcoat.
Cocky does his part to be a philanthropic mascot by serving his community and putting his efforts towards a great cause. He also acts as a great role model for those young readers and for USC students who volunteer with the Cocky’s Reading Express program. Katie Webber, a senior at USC, volunteered with Cocky’s Reading Express as part of the Pillars Extended Orientation Program. She said that “Cocky’s Reading Express provides students with the opportunity to really make an impact around South Carolina” and her favorite memory of volunteering was “watching the excitement on the kids’ faces during story time. You could tell an interest for reading was sparked in the kids during the story time.”
As a successful venture into the effort to gain a higher rate of literacy in South Carolina, Cocky reminds every Gamecock why it is important to get out into the community and volunteer. His involvement in the project shows why he is an exemplary Gamecock and deserves to be recognized and honored. Every trip Cocky’s Reading Express makes is a success, and Tommy Preston, creator of the program is pleased. Upon seeing the mark that Cocky’s Reading Express has made on the South Carolina community, he said “Cocky’s Reading Express is rolling across the state and bringing the joy of reading to children in every corner of South Carolina”.