Students on Long Middle School’s athletic teams have been putting some long hours into serving their community.
On Nov. 25, the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams volunteered at the First Baptist Church’s soup kitchen. On Tuesday, the wrestling team also volunteered at the soup kitchen, serving meals to the needy. It’s all part of a community service program that Long Middle has had for three years now.
Within this program, student-athletes have picked up litter, donated canned goods to local churches and held charity games to raise money for cancer research and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“We’re trying to teach them that just because they are a ‘star’ per se, they still need to give back,” said Athletic Director Jessica Mason, who also coaches the girls’ basketball team. “So if we do have future kids that go to play in the NFL, they already know they should be giving back to different people.”
Mason said the students were pretty receptive to the lesson. In the three years the program has been running, Mason said she has never heard a single complaint from her students.
“Honestly, you would think middle-school kids going to go work a soup kitchen, that they wouldn’t be excited, but they actually really look forward to it,“ Mason said.
Students are assigned food items such as hot dogs or buns, which they bring from home to serve at the kitchen. The coaches provide the drinks, and together, coaches and players serve the meals to the needy.
”I think it opens their eyes and helps team-building” Mason said. “Because they don’t realize that some of the kids that are there are their classmates.”
Mason said some of the girls on the team would sit down and eat with classmates who came into the soup kitchen.
“We don’t want anybody to treat each other differently,” she said.
Boys’ basketball coach Carlo Bowen said he has noticed the volunteer work helping the children’s teamwork skills.
“They mixed in,” Bowen said. “all the eighth-graders didn’t just stay with the eighth-graders, they mixed up with the sixth graders. It made the process go smoothly.”
Thirteen-year-old forward Yisher Austin said she enjoyed working the soup kitchen and that she believes the community service is a good reflection of the team’s character.
“It was really exciting because you’re helping out your community,” she said.
“It’s not all about what we do on the court; it’s about our character, that’s what really having a team is all about,” Austin added. “It’s about building character instead of just playing a position on the team.”
Reach reporter Randy Garner at 843-537-5261 and follow him on Twitter @CherawChronicle.