Student-Athletes Are Mentors On and Off the Field
When they aren’t on the courts or fields, student-athletes from Sacred Heart University’s Division I sports teams spend their mornings mentoring students at Dunbar School in Bridgeport, CT. Three years ago the mentorship program was introduced to SHU’s student athletic advisory committee (SAAC) by Derrick Lewis, a former UCONN football player and creator of the Dunbar MOTIVATE program. The student-athletes have been giving back to the neighboring Bridgeport community ever since.
“The mission of the MOTIVATE Program is to socially empower and impact students of urban communities,” said Lewis. “It is designed to help students gain pride and worth as it pertains to academic success through mentoring, educating, and tutoring those students who struggle in the basic academic areas.”
The Dunbar School visits run from Monday to Friday and the athletes choose which day they will volunteer. It is an early morning as the shuttle to the school departs at 8:30 a.m.
“When they first arrive, the school principal assigns the volunteers to classes spanning from K-8, where they will stay with for the entire year,” said Dunbar School Coordinator Sara Gerrity. “Visits end each day at 10:30 a.m., which provides enough time for those who have classes at 11.”
The athletes help teachers with a wide variety of topics ranging from reading and writing to math and testing. “SHU student-athletes have definitely helped Dunbar students immensely,” said softball player Nicole Sidor, who has participated in the program for the past three years. “I’ve noticed an increased thirst for knowledge and a much more positive attitude among students in the classes I work with.”
Many outside the SHU community have also noticed the impact of the Dunbar Program. The hard work of the student-athletes was recognized nationally when they were awarded the National SAAC Award of Excellence, which is awarded to Division I schools that participate in unique community service projects.
“Our students are committed and really do a great job working with the kids,” said Lucy Cox, senior associate athletic director. “It’s represented in winning the first ever NEC Building Communities Award, clocking over 6,200 hours of community service in 2010-2011.”