UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Playing an impactful role in the community is a responsibility Penn State’s athletic programs do not take lightly.
The 31 varsity teams take incredible pride in efforts that make a difference in avenues outside of the competition field. As representatives of the athletic department, the student-athletes understand the importance of influencing those in many different facets of life. And the groups are able to use their placement in the community as a conduit to helping others.
Through a wide-range of activities with organizations and groups of all ages, Penn State’s approximately 800 student-athletes performed more than 5,300 hours of community service in 2014-15. The total number of hours created an average of nearly seven hours of service for each student-athlete this past year.
“I’ve been so impressed with the service and servant’s hearts that our student-athletes and programs have,” stated Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “There are so many quality ways in which our student-athletes engage with the community and serve as mentors. It’s such a great environment and lesson for our student-athletes. When we give, we’re the ones who receive and I think our student-athletes are learning those lessons through their great work in the community.”
Five Penn State teams completed an average of more than 15 community service hours per student-athlete. The women’s gymnastics team headlines the list with 35.33 community service hours per student on the team. The women’s golf team completed 26.27 hours per student and the women’s basketball squad completed 20.67 hours per student. The football (15.51) and wrestling (15.07) squads also completed more than 15 hours of community service per student-athlete this past year.
In total, 11 different Penn State teams completed more than 100 total hours of community service. The Nittany Lion football team completed more than 2,200 total community service hours.
At the 28th Annual SAAB Academic Achievement Awards Banquet last spring, the CHAMPS Cup Awards for community outreach were presented for the 10th time. Claiming the small teams (20 or fewer on roster) award was the women’s gymnastics team. The large teams (20 or more on roster) award went to the Nittany Lion football team’s defensive unit.
“Being involved in the community is something that is very important to our program,” said John Gondak, head coach of the track and field and cross country programs. “We have one of the largest teams on campus – more than 100 student-athletes – and the experiences they gain being out in the community help them grow as individuals, helps our team grow by working together and also helps the community in so many different ways.”
The theme across Intercollegiate Athletics is that while none of the community service activities are mandatory, the student-athletes, coaches and staff members never bypass the chance to help out. The department strives to create comprehensive success across every aspect of the college experience for its students. Community service is a big piece to that puzzle.
“It’s so important because there is such a need for our student-athletes to be great mentors,” said field hockey head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss. “To give back to the community is so important, and to create that connection between the community and the student-athletes here at Penn State is really important. Our team is doing a great job academically, so they are excellent role models when we meet with young individuals in the community.”
The activity in the community from Penn State’s student-athletes is directly aligned with the University’s service culture. Each February, Penn State Athletics plays an integral part in THON, the largest student run philanthropy in the world. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $127 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Several student-athletes participate in the dance marathon, in addition to teams hosting THON outreach events, such as the Penn State Football THON Explorers program where more than 50 THON children tour the Lasch Football Building.
Community service is a meaningful part of Penn State Athletics and the mission of all 31 teams on campus. Creating a bond between the athletic department’s 800 student-athletes and different sectors of the community is a significant piece to creating a world-class experience on the University Park campus. And with more than 5,300 hours of service completed in the past year, Penn State teams are leaving their mark on so much more than the success in competition arenas.
Story courtesy of Penn State Athletics http://www.gopsusports.com/