Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Community Service Looks Good on the Hatters

Spend a little time with many student-athletes from Stetson University and you discover quickly the culture of community service and involvement that helps define the Hatters’ programs.

Take women’s lacrosse for instance. Senior Samantha Akl has participated in many projects and events with her team, from helping clean up a local beach to helping out at the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store.

“It is amazing to represent Stetson women’s lacrosse at something that helps our community, because it gives us a chance to tell them who were are, what we do and why we are there,” said Akl. “Because we are a sport not known for its fan base, it is so much fun to get out and hopefully create new fans. We have had some ask us back and said to be sure next time to bring our sticks.”

Then there is women’s soccer, whose service ranges from volunteering and teaching in local churches to working with the humane society and participating in walks against domestic violence. One student-athlete, junior Jenna Premo, also spent two weeks as a missionary in Guyana, working to provide clothing and food to children and families.

“That was an incredible experience,” says Premo. “I was in the jungle for a week and then in a very poor city for another week. It really put into perspective the amount of things that we get as student-athletes. Plus, watching the kids play soccer and playing with them really reinforced how much I love the game.” 

Along with participating in a certain amount of hours of service with their teams, many Hatter student-athletes go above and beyond that time as well. Some will often discover needs and serve for their own personal satisfaction, while others share the intentions to serve on social media and are soon joined by a teammate or fellow student-athlete or two, at the very least.

“Being able to play a sport is great, and it is a privilege, but we have great fans and being able to show them that we are supporting the community in return is a big deal,” says Premo. “As student-athletes we have a unique opportunity to serve as models for athletics and the university, and that is important.”

A board member in Stetson’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Akl understands and praises the advantages of student-athlete involvement in organizations such as SAAC.

“I was a transfer to Stetson, and so beginning to participate in different forms of community service made me feel like a part of the community,” she said. “I had always wanted to be a part of SAAC, even to the point of assuming a leadership role, and so once I decided to join I was ‘All In.’"

 Next up for Akl, Premo and Stetson’s SAAC is the Me Strong 5K, an event organized to help raise money for cancer research and to support families dealing with cancer. The Hatters’ SAAC will play major roles in the planning and execution of the event, in which student-athletes are encouraged to participate either by running or volunteering in some facet of the race. 

Last year’s event was held in honor of a local resident and a supporter of Stetson athletics who was in the third battle against cancer in her life.

 “As a student-athlete and a new member to SAAC, I am enjoying the time that we spend together, whether it is learning personal facets of personal development through our meetings or investing in our community,” said Premo. “Of course you always feel like your efforts can be increased a bit, but the level of desire among our student-athletes to do good and to get out there is high.” 

“The Me Strong 5K is the biggest and most exciting community service event that SAAC in particular participates in,” said Akl. “Along with the other community service projects that we participate in throughout the year, this event provides such a good influence on me and my teammates. Stetson is such a small school in a tight-knit community, and so the results of this type of service is very satisfying.”

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