Reaching kids through rodeo

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Tucson rodeo is in full swing.

The competition in the arena is impressive, but the learning experience for some Tucson elementary students is just as remarkable.

Some Tucson schoolkids got the day off from their usual lessons Monday, trading math and science for barrel racing and steer wrestling.

"I teach the kids things they can watch for in rodeo so when they watch the event it can make it more interesting.  I point out little different things they can pick up on," said Penny Conway.

Penny Conway has served as instructor for the Rodeo Education and Children program, or "REaCh" for short, for more than 15 years.

Although this 2001 professional world champion team roper loves to talk about her sport, she loves to encourage children to "cowboy up" even more.

"It's the drug and gang prevention, anti-bullying you know, the whole message of using cowboy terms in a way that can be positive for them to remember in their lives," said Conway.

Her message is loud and clear and the more than 50 students soaked it up.

Ashley Vasquz attended the event with her friends and her father.  As part of the program Conway will call up students from the crowd and Vasquz was one of the participants.

"I learned to cowboy up, to tough up and to not be afraid in front of a big audience," said Ashley.

Conway believes the connection with the rodeo helps her message stick with the children.

The reach program has been offered to Tucson elementary schools at no charge since 1995.