Are ya ready for some FOOTBALL?!?!
I am! With the dawn of Fall comes the start of the college football season and more importantly, the first season my beloved Texas A&M Aggies will join the ranks of the SEC! I’ve got my 12th Man jersey ready to go and the perfect tailgating spot all picked out. Going back to College Station to root for the Ags is something I love to do. The sea of maroon and the roar of the crowd at Kyle Field is something special. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
In my anticipation of the 2012 football season starting, I started thinking about how much dedication university student-athletes must have to keep up with their classes and their obligations to their team. Beyond this, though, many also make it a point to give back to their communities. I thought it’d be fun to share some of the best examples of student-athletes making a difference on and off the field.
C’mon, you know I had to start with my Aggies! In general, the whole student body is very community-oriented. The Big Event, Texas A&M’s student-sponsored day of community service is a prime example. In 2011, more than 17,000 students completed 1,600 volunteer jobs in Bryan/College Station just to say “thanks” to the residents for the support the University receives from the community. It is so popular that 75 schools around the U.S. have used The Big Event template to create similar programs. Whoop!
The Aggie Athletes Involved (AAI) is a community service group comprised of student-athletes that aims to create an opportunity for young people to spend time and interact on a personal level with student-athletes from different teams. Actually, this service group is one of the most active athletic-related service groups in the entire country. For the past 18 years, student-athletes from all intercollegiate sports at TAMU have volunteered their time to take part in events that help the Brazos Valley and campus community. Average participation typically consists of over 350 student-athletes taking part in one or more activities or events. Events that AAI is involved with include mentoring programs, red ribbon and drug awareness activities, the Brazos Valley Food Bank, the Special Olympics, the Children’s Miracle Network, Big Event, Aggie Sports Day, Aggies CAN, NYSP Car Wash, and the KBTX Food For Families (just to name a few!).
Fans attending the University of Houston football season opener this Saturday will be able to celebrate much more than the return of Cougar Football. The game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at Robertson Stadium, features Heroes Day activities. Local citizens who make significant differences in the lives of others will be honored by the Cougars in pre-game ceremonies and throughout the game. These heroes include Houston Fire and Houston Police, first responders, military veterans and much more. In addition to this special day, the University of Houston partners year-round with Be A Champion, Inc. to provide the community with services such as reading incentive programs, drug awareness and motivational speaking engagements, hospital visits, food drives, youth tailgating parties, and academic incentive programs. These endeavors allow disadvantaged youth to interact with student-athletes.
At Baylor, “Love thy neighbor” are not just words… they are a way of life. Baylor University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) serves as voice for the student-athletes and an opportunity for all student-athletes to get involved in campus life and the local community. They encourage and provide opportunities for community involvement, promoting a positive student-athlete image, and strive to enhance the student-athlete experience at Baylor University. SAAC participates in annual community events such as the Food for Families Can Food Drive, Santa’s Workshop, and Special Olympics. They also sponsor several events like Study Break Game Night, Athletes Supporting Athletes, and our Student-Athlete Banquet for National Student-Athlete Day. Through these events, SAAC strives to both unite student-athletes and to enrich the community through service.
In my research about Baylor, I also came across two inspiring articles. The first is a US News article ranking colleges based on various criteria, including “Student Life” which, in the case of Baylor, happens to be very community service-oriented. Each semester, students donate a collective 12,000 hours of time to service projects. Students can volunteer year round through the school’s Urban Missions, which coordinates service projects in the local community, and Global Missions, which sends students abroad. The second article describes a visit by the Bears’ football team to Haven for Hope, a homeless shelter in the heart of San Antonio.
Even though the sight of burnt orange makes me gag and I cringe every time I hear “The Eyes of Texas”, I can definitely get on board with the University of Texas’ commitment to community service. The Neighborhood Longhorns Program, uniquely partnered with the University of Texas, is a non-profit, incentive-based learning program which provides economically disadvantaged youth with the resources to build a strong academic future. The program prepares students to succeed through tutoring and mentoring opportunities with UT students and student-athletes. Through the program, the Longhorns also host athletic summer camps for students who have earned scholarships for improved academic performance.
Student-athletes who take time out of their already busy schedule definitely earn my admiration no matter what team they play for. They are true leaders on and off the field.