CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hundreds of eighth graders from 38 middle schools converged at Memorial Stadium for the first School Pride Day.

The event was sponsored by CMS Schools, Carolina Panthers, and the Cam Newton Foundation.

Newton made a appearance, giving students encouragement and a pep-talk.

Today is really to reward kids who are doing everything right. For them to be rewarded for having a particular GPA, doing the right thing, and staying out of trouble, that's big for me, said Newton.

Many of the student expressed their awe in meeting Newton face-to-face.

I was shocked to see him. I didn't think I'll ever see him in person in my life, exclaimed one student.

Along with meeting the academic criteria set, students also wrote an essay to Newton on why they should be selected to represent their school.

I wrote cause I'm so spirited, full of spirit and got good grades,'' says a student from Francis Brady Middle School.

Along with rewarding students for keeping their grades up, Newton says it is also about staying mentally and physically fit.

We want kids to go out and become sweaty, he said. That s a good thing... just get outside and play, that is what today is all about.

The teams wore bright colored T-shirts, rotating to ten recreation and academic-themed stations, from hula hoops to tug-of-war.

Newton just finished his final exams last week, and spoke about his choice to go back to school.

Finals were finals... It's never fun, but at the same time, you have to prepare for it the right way, similar to how you prepare for a game, he said.

Newton says he wants to be a positive role model for students, but was also motivated to finish school to be an example for his little brother who is now in grade school.

He says he was moved by the participation and turnout.

I will always remember this cause they really don't understand how much it means to me for them to come out and see the turnout. They are in awe of me, but I am in awe of them when I see those guys, especially when they are enthused about being out here, and very energetic and showing their school pride. Just being themselves. he said.

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