In Focus: Student-Athletes Embrace Service

Find this feature on page 145 of this weekend's
Find this feature on page 145 of this weekend's "LSU At the Game" program.
Ali Manion
Ali Manion

With classes, practices and games, LSU student-athletes lead rather busy lives. Despite their jam-packed schedules, they still find time to serve the community through LSU Athletics' "Geaux Givers."

"Student-athletes do a lot of community service work," said Jade Bryan, Assistant Director for Diversity, Inclusion and Civic Management at the Academic Center for Student-Athletes. "We wanted to bring all their efforts together under one umbrella."

Thus, the CHAMPS/Life Skills unit in conjunction with the marketing department for LSU Athletics developed "Geaux Givers."

"I think it will be a great program as we go forward," said Joe Alleva, LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. "We have terrific student-athletes here that really engage in projects in the community. It's a benefit to them, and I think it'll be a benefit to Baton Rouge and the state of Louisiana."

LSU student-athletes completed 2,648.5 hours of community service during the 2009-2010 academic year. These hours are the equivalent of 110 days of community service.

"Geaux Givers is bringing everyone together under these efforts of community service," Bryan said. "We are emphasizing how important it is to give back to the Baton Rouge community that gives so much to the student-athletes."

Bryan added that the "Geaux Givers" initiative allows student-athletes to bond as a team off the field.

"The students have been very excited about it," she said. " Anytime students go out in the community they wear 'Geaux Givers' t-shirts and are identified as one group."

LSU At the Game programs are available on campus three hours prior to game time and online while supplies last.

Alleva believes student-athletes are fulfilling their responsibility by participating in the "Geaux Givers" initiative.

"In my mind responsibility is for academic performance, responsibility for athletic achievement and for being a good citizen," he said. "Being a good citizen means reaching out and helping people in the community that may not be as fortunate as you are."

The "Geaux Givers" initiative kicked off with the fourth annual SEC Together We CAN Food Drive, which took place in September. All 12 SEC schools raised a total of 240,000 pounds in food and financial contributions.

Since then, student-athletes have visited local children's hospitals, schools and built houses in the Baton Rouge community. They work with local and national organizations like Habitat for Humanity, St. Vincent De Paul and Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital.

Five members of the LSU swim team also joined forces with other locals to help renovate Lanier Elementary School in north Baton Rouge this past summer. Their efforts were featured on NBC's "School Pride," which provides makeovers for needy schools across the country.

Former LSU athletes are also getting involved in "Geaux Givers."  Former LSU wide receiver Demetrius Byrd joined LSU gymnast Shelby Prunty, cross country runner Michelle Mobley and pole vaulter Brianne Bergeron to participate in the National Walk to School program at Buchanan and Polk Elementary Schools in early October.

"I was drawn to this opportunity because of the kids," Byrd said. "Growing up, I didn't have a role model come to my school, and I wanted to provide that to these kids. The best part was seeing the kids smile and get excited about their prizes."

Bryan said that many more community service events are in the works for the coming months. One such event, Thanksgiving with the Tigers, will take place November 22nd in the PMAC. A Thanksgiving dinner will be provided for needy families through the St. Vincent De Paul homeless shelter, and the children in attendance will have the opportunity to play games with LSU student-athletes.

Alleva believes the student-athletes are not only serving the community, but helping themselves as well.

"When our student-athletes reach out to the community and help people, they are developing the wisdom of giving back," he said.

Bryan hopes the Baton Rouge community will recognize LSU student-athletes for their devotion to community service.

"Our student-athletes are dedicated to their community and are helping out in any way they can," she said. "Their schedules are so jam-packed, but they are finding that it's important for them to take what little time they have off and do what they can to better the community."





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