Jacks Give Back
By Nathan Giese
Being a student-athlete at the Division I level is time consuming. Between practices, workouts, games, travel, classes and homework, it’s hard to find a free minute. That didn’t stop SDSU student-athletes from logging more than 6,200 hours of community service and volunteer work during the 2013-14 academic year throughout the 14 athletic programs.
“Our teams do a really good job making giving back to the community a priority,” said Jennifer Sell, the assistant athletic direction of academics who coordinates activities through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). “They understand how wonderful the community is in supporting them, so they really want to show that they care about them by giving back.”
Each athletic program at SDSU has at least one SAAC representative, who works with Sell in coordinating different events and getting their teammates to help as well.
One of the most successful programs has been The Summit League Food Fight, where student-athletes collect non-perishable food items and cash donations.
SDSU was won the “Food Fight” the past two years and three times since its inception during the 2008-09 year. Student-athletes take donations at basketball games while interacting with fans and supporters. During last year’s “Food Fight”, SDSU student-athletes collected 25,347.46 pounds of food, which was donated to the Brookings Food Pantry.
The women’s basketball team logged 372.5 hours of volunteer efforts during the 2013-14 campaign, including the “Food Fight.”
“The Food Fight is my favorite one because it’s a competition. You’re competing against other schools and you get to see what they’ve collected,” women’s basketball senior Megan Stuart said. “SDSU does a really good job with the work we do in volunteering and helping in the community.”
All SDSU programs took part in Adopt-a-Family, otherwise known as Project Joy. Project Joy, a favorite among many student-athletes, gives to families that don’t have much around the holiday season. The student-athletes spend time working around campus to earn money for this program, which is used to purchase gifts and other surprises for those without much to put under the tree.
Student-athletes take part in a number of smaller volunteer activities as well, including helping students move into their dorm rooms on move-in weekend in August, speaking at Brookings area schools, helping with the Hobo Day parade, working with Samaritan’s Feet and campus cleanup projects.
Toward the end of every school year, SDSU holds its annual scholarship auction. Each program has their student-athletes help in the setup and cleanup of the even.
Some student-athletes took part in a mission trip to Jamaica this past March, which Zach Zenner, senior on the football team and an Allstate Good Works team nominee, calls his most rewarding experience to date.
“We went down there and helped build two homes and interacted with people,” said Zenner. “We were spreading God’s love through our relations that we were building and our service. Just going somewhere and submersing yourself into a different culture was an incredible experience. I know I was impacted more than I impacted them.”
The SDSU football team accounted for 1694.5 hours of volunteer work this past year, the most of any team. The equestrian squad logged 970 hours while track put in 834.5 hours.
Jackrabbit student-athletes don’t do the work for the glory. Instead, they do it, as men’s basketball sophomore Anders Broman puts it, to make a difference.
“You feel that you’re helping out everyone, not only the athletic programs but you’re also making a difference in the community,” said Broman. “I’m pretty proud to be able to do that.”
Some programs require their student-athletes to do volunteer work. “They make it not feel like a chore,” said Alanna Pegnilly, a junior for the volleyball team. “They make it not nerve-wracking to ask for money.”
Student-athletes also say that the Brookings community makes it easier to do these events. Wagner Larson, a junior on the volleyball team, said, “Especially in Brookings, since we have such a good atmosphere, it’s a good community. I feel like people like to give and when they do that it makes it more fun for us because when they get excited about it then we get excited about it.”
Despite all of the hours already in volunteer efforts, there is an opportunity for more.
“If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to approach the athletic department with it,” Zenner explains. “There are more than 500 of us, and you’re probably going to find at least one team that’s really going to get hold of it and get multiple people to help you.”