Volunteering their time to help children is a longstanding tradition for Hilltopper student-athletes. This year, working with kids in a local elementary school was a slam-dunk for the St. Edward’s Women’s Basketball team. The impact the players had played out in big and small ways.
For example, imagine a child who struggles in everyday interactions with students and teachers. A child who shies away from conversations and doesn't do well with change. But, after slowly working her way up to engaging one-on-one with a student-athlete, the child opens up and becomes more and more comfortable, with not only the player, but also the world around her.
It’s the exact result the team aimed for as they made their weekly trek to Cowan Elementary School in South Austin each Tuesday morning, despite their demanding basketball season schedule.
In fact, the Hilltopper squad, fresh off of its improbable run to the Heartland Conference Championship game last March, showed up at Cowan Elementary just a few days later, ready to see all of the smiling faces they helped create in Laura Colley's first-grade class.
Head coach J.J. Riehl sees the value for the school children as well as her student-athletes. “Giving back to the community is an extremely important aspect of the St. Edward’s mission and our basketball program here on the hilltop. That’s why we’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Ms. Colley and Cowan Elementary for a second-straight year. My staff and I strive to help our student-athletes understand that they have the power to positively influence the lives of today’s youth, and we are thankful to our friends at Cowan for giving us the opportunity to make that happen.”
Weekly activities cover reading, writing, vocabulary and computer work. During the first few weeks of the partnership, student-athletes spend time getting a feel for the routines and expectations of the classroom. The following weeks, they jump into reading with students, helping them with their writing, playing educational games and overseeing the work the students do in the classroom.
“All of the girls are so welcoming and enthusiastic with my kids," Colley said. "It's more than just reading and playing games. It’s about the connection that is built and the fulfillment my students get by working with such great role models. I hope the relationship continues for years to come.”
Hilltopper senior Athe Ade, the player who had such an impact on the child mentioned above, says that the weekly visits have had lasting effects on her personally. “I’ll never forget the smile on that kid's face once she finally opened up to me. It was another example of why this program is not only beneficial for the kids at Cowan, but rewarding for us student-athletes as well.”
Logan Lawrence is a sports writer with St. Edward’s University.