Community service, academics required for student athletes
During the best volleyball season since 2007, blocker Sarah Davis could be seen dominating on the court, recording a career-high 15 kills in the match against Hampton University and a career-high 33 attacks against Texas A&M University-Kingsville. But that’s just the beginning, because off the court the student-athlete from California must also make sure to comply with many extra requirements, such as community service and strict academic habits.
For their first such project of the semester, the volleyball team visited the Edinburg Children’s Hospital late August. There, the ladies read to and interacted with a few children and visited others in the Intensive Care Unit.
Davis instantly bonded with 10-year-old patient Yaletcy Perez. The pair read Hannah Montana: Backstage Pass, looked through the pictures and discussed their favorite episodes from the Disney Channel show. Other team members explain that this sort of activity is part of being a student-athlete.
“We do not only promote athletics, but also show that athletes try to help community,” said San Benito freshman Kasey Sanchez. “The event was very successful. It’s amazing how such little things can bring the smiles on kids’ faces and I feel like that it’s an important thing to do.”
The women’s tennis team has engaged in such community service projects as the Rio Reforestation at the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and helping the UTPA nursing program, both in October. Nov. 17, the men’s squad hosted Tennis Kids Day, a free clinic for children ages 6 to 13.
“It was fun and we were able to introduce tennis for lots of kids,” men’s netter Yosua Adiyasa said. “Many of the kids who attended never held racquet before, so it was great to teach them how to hit and overall introduce tennis to them for the first time.”
The general theme of the mandatory service routine is giving back, usually for some cause that has caught the eye of the UTPA athletic community.
Most of the recent community service events the baseball team has been involved in have revolved around 5-year-old Brownsville native Nolan Naranjo, who has been battling MDS (pre-leukemia). The players held a blood drive in May, a bone marrow drive in September, and shaved their heads in support of Nolan in October.
“We still send him lots of stuff (like) photos and hopefully he’ll get healthy soon. Just recently we went to the church and had a Thanksgiving Day community service,” right-handed pitcher Sam Street said. “Coach always tells us that we have a gift, that we play baseball, and we need to give something back to the community. It is rewarding to do community service, plus it helps.”
Besides having to complete at least 10 community service hours per semester, student-athletes must meet other requirements.
As freshmen, they must complete at least 24 hours within the academic year, maintain a 1.7 grade-point average (GPA) and complete eight study hall hours per week. As a sophomore, at least 18 hours should be completed within the academic year along with a 1.8 GPA.
The same amount of hours must be completed the next two years, but by their junior year student-athletes must have progressed 40 percent toward their degree credit (48 hours) and 60 percent toward their degree credit (72 hours) by senior year, while maintaining a 2.0 GPA.
The University Athletic Department and the Learning Assistant Center provide help so that the student-athletes may be able to keep their GPA up and balance between practices, traveling and school.
“Being a student-athlete means you have a lot on your plate,” Davis said. “There’s no coasting through, you either succeed or you don’t. Choosing to succeed means you’re all in. Quitting isn’t an option, ever.”