Student-athletes serve community

Jake Grovum

Aside from performing on the field, Gophers student-athletes find other ways to affect the community around them.

Through the Challenging Athletes’ Minds for Personal Success Life Skills program, the athletics department promotes a number of community service opportunities for its student-athletes.

From food and toy drives to trips to area elementary schools, student-athletes participate in a variety of activities, assistant life skills coordinator Anissa Lightner said.

“It’s the right thing,” she said. “They need to be out promoting healthy lifestyles; they need to be out giving back to the community; they need to be out doing things that are outside the lines of play.”

Typically, the athletics department has two community-service activities per week, and student-athletes volunteer when they’re available, Lightner said.

“It’s a wide variety; it just kind of depends on who’s in class and who’s in practice,” she said. “When we did the food drive before, I think we had 220 athletes volunteer for that.”

Although some sports mandate team community service, the program events are attended on a volunteer basis, Lightner said.

An e-mail goes out to student-athletes every Sunday that lists upcoming community-service opportunities, she said.

Junior Gophers softball catcher Shannon Stemper said the volunteer basis of the community service helps student-athletes participate.

“Our schedules are so busy and they are so awkwardly scheduled; you have class, then you have practice, then you got weights,” she said. “It’s nice to get that e-mail weekly and then be like, ‘well, this one fits in.’ “

Many of the community service activities involve going to local elementary schools, and student-athletes talk about issues ranging from academics, tobacco and drug use and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, Lightner said.

When student-athletes talk to elementary school children, it’s an opportunity for them to hear about issues from other sources, Stemper said.

“I think it’s important to have other people who are older who kids might look up to,” she said. “They don’t know who I am, but it doesn’t matter because they just think ‘athlete;’ it’s cute.”

Aside from speaking engagements, student-athletes will also participate in a toy drive to benefit St. Joseph’s Home for Children next weekend during Gophers basketball games, Lightner said.

Gophers women’s hockey senior forward Bobbi Ross said while the events benefit others, they can also benefit the student-athletes.

“I wish I could say it’s all for the people we’re volunteering for,” she said. “We get a lot out of it as well.”

Ross also said the community service allows her to do something positive during her days at the University.

“It’s a way to spend some of my free time doing something that is easy enough to do,” she said. “Then it actually does make a difference.”

Junior Gophers men’s tennis player Adam Altepeter said the community service is ultimately a way to give back to those who have given a lot to him.

“We, as student-athletes, have been given great opportunities by the University,” he said. “I think it’s important to give back something.”