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
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
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.
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