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National Voting is Open for 2020-2021 AFH U Awards

National Voting is Open for 2020-2021 AFH U Awards

Athletes for Hope is excited to announce this year’s Finalists for the the 2020-2021 Athletes for Hope University (AFH U) Awards. This award is designed to recognize and honor AFH U student-athletes and teams for their exceptional work and dedication to service. These student-athletes and teams were chosen throughout the year during monthly nominations for their continued commitment to addressing the needs of their communities during a global pandemic by quickly adapting to a strategic virtual model.

Voting opens on May 9th and closes on May 23rd.  The winners will be announced on May 26th at the virtual AFH U Year End Recognition celebration. During the voting campaign, each nominated team and student-athlete will be recognized in an initial blog post and spotlighted on social media individually for their work.

Please join us in congratulating this year’s finalists and don’t forget to vote here.

2020-2021 AFH U Awards: Student-Athlete Finalists

Raychel Fauntroy – Howard University, Swim and Dive

Raychel just finished her sophomore year at Howard University. When Raychel isn’t studying Human Performance or training in the pool, she’s participating in Athletes for Hope activities and finding outreach opportunities for her teammates. Raychel’s a hard worker who continues to excel in all aspects of life. She’s an incredible teammate and AFH member who always wants what’s best for everyone. We are so grateful for her leadership and dedication to service!

Jillian Martinez – UCLA, Soccer

In between classes and soccer training, Jillian continues to find time to give back to her community. It’s no surprise that the students at Los Angeles Elementary Schools love her presence, as Jillian continues to bring energy and enthusiasm to our AFH Fit Program. She’s the type of teammate that makes others around her better. Thank you Jillian for encouraging students to stay physically active!

Courtney Henderson – LSU, Soccer

Courtney is an extremely hard worker and an outstanding leader. On top of being a fiery midfielder for the varsity LSU Women’s Soccer team, she served as LSU’s SAAC Representative. Courtney has led the LSU Soccer team into great community engagement initiatives. After learning about The Parole Project, she coordinated a game day experience for previously incarcerated men as a positive and uplifting step as they re-enter the community. We are so lucky to have Courtney in the AFH Community and can’t wait to see what she does next!


Taryn Antoine – LSU, Softball

Not only is Taryn a junior outfielder on the LSU Softball team, she is also an AFH Intern and has been an incredible resource for all of LSU’s team leads. Taryn has a passion for serving others. Not only does she volunteer, connect AFH with athletes and provide awesome outreach, but does it all while balancing a full academic and athletic course load.


Landon Auzenne – Southern U, Football

Landon is a self-motivated leader on Southern University’s Football team. Landon will do just about anything to make you smile. For instance, during the Dancing with Big Buddy event, Landon was brave enough to compete and represent his team all by himself. His out-going and giving personality tells a lot about his character and what he’ll do for his community. Thankful for Landon and all his incredible work!


Morgan Lowe – Ohio State, Gymnastics

Morgan is extremely committed to community service. In addition to being a full-time student-athlete, Morgan took matters into her own hands when it came to finding service opportunities during the pandemic. Prior to Covid-19, Morgan arranged monthly hospital visits with her teammates. Thanks to Morgan, she and her teammates created a way to virtually promote physical fitness to schools across the state of Ohio and has participated in the AFH U Sports Philanthropy Certificate Program. We are so grateful to have Morgan in the AFH community!


Olivia Gunter – LSU, Gymnastics

Olivia is a recent LSU graduate and former member of the LSU Gymnastics team. Last August, when Hurricane Laura hit southern Louisiana, Olivia stopped at nothing to help those affected in her community. She led her team’s fundraising efforts that raised funds to purchase hurricane relief supplies. Olivia is constantly giving back by volunteering with many local nonprofits and charities. We are so lucky to have been able to work with Olivia!

2020-2021 AFH U Awards: Team Finalists

Michigan State Field Hockey 

Traditionally, MSU Field Hockey competes in the Fall which leaves an abundance of service opportunities in the Spring. Even with the season getting pushed to the spring due to COVID-19, the team didn’t stop giving back to the Greater Lansing community. MSU Field Hockey went above and beyond when it came down to participating in the Contact-less Food Drive Donation in March. Not only did they have the highest team participation, they also provided over 1,000 meals to those in need.


LSU Beach Volleyball

In a year where they reached the NCAA Championship, LSU Beach Volleyball also took time for acts of service. Taking advantage of their travel schedule, they collected toiletries from hotels they stayed in and continuously donated them to a local charity which distributes these necessary items to those in need.


Macalester Women’s Basketball

The Macalester Women’s Basketball team jumped into service this year after participating in an AFH workshop through the NCAA. After the workshop, they immediately asked AFH to connect them with service opportunities in their community. The Macalester Basketball team supported homeless youth through the Kids in Need Foundation and administered AFH Fit visits with a local elementary school. This team has proactively sought opportunities to serve and continue to be leaders in their community and on campus.


Georgetown Women’s Rowing

The Georgetown Rowing team was quick to jump into service after their September workshop. 10 of their members immediately started mentoring with Strong Girls United, while others joined the AFH Sports Philanthropy Certificate Program. A few rowers are currently investing more time in matters that they’ve grown passionate about. The team inspires others through their commitment to service.


Southern U Baseball

Southern Baseball kicked off the semester strong while assisting Cedarcrest-Southmoor Elementary School as they prepared for the return of students after the abrupt closure due to Covid-19. Located in Baton Rouge, LA the team was eager to assist with Hurricane Laura’ relief efforts by teaming up with the Cajun Navy. Following this action, they sorted and loaded supplies for those affected in Lake Charles. The entire Southern Baseball program voluntarily participates in service together and continues to support the Baton Rogue community.


LSU Women’s Soccer

The LSU Women’s Soccer team took it upon themselves to get active and make an impact in their community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the strict health guidelines, the team created appreciation cards for the health care workers at the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. On top of this genuine act of service, the team created care packages for the residents at Heritage Manor in Baton Rouge.


LSU SAAC coordinated a toy drive collecting over 100 Christmas gifts for youth in the Big Buddy program. With a surplus of toys, Big Buddy was able to donate toys to another agency in order to support families in need during the holiday season. They have also been active in service and advocacy events on campus throughout the year.


Our Impact in 2019

Athletes for Hope served more athletes and communities than ever before in 2019. Through our programs such as AFH FIT, AFH University and Global Gender Equality, we positively impacted tens of thousands of underserved people in communities around the globe, equipped hundreds of athletes with the tools to be effective community advocates, and connected those athletes to organizations they care about all over the world! A huge thank you to all of our friends, partners, and AFH’s network of more than 7,000 professional, Olympic and college athletes – the incredible 2019 highlights below would not be possible without you.


The AFH FIT program made huge strides in 2019. We developed a brand new curriculum called C.H.A.M.P.S (Courage, Honesty, Accountability, Mindfulness, Perseverance, and Sportsmanship), and we have utilized this new curriculum in reaching and impacting more than 100,000 underserved children this year through 200 school and after-school visits, and our virtual program which utilizes C.H.A.M.P.S. Challenge Videos.

AFH University:

In 2019 AFH U added two new campuses (UCLA and Georgetown), increased our overall service hours by 71% and expanded the number of community partners by 85%. Over 2,500 AFH student-athletes participated in visits with charitable organizations across eight different college campuses in the 2018-2019 school year, positively impacting thousands of underserved individuals. We also initiated our first national Student-Athlete and Team of the Year Award and held our first year-end service recognition events in Baton Rouge and Lansing, Michigan.

Global Gender Equality Program:

In July of this year, Athletes for Hope was selected as one of five sport specialists in the world to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on Gender Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals. We created and funded the premiere Gender Equality Summit at the 2019 World Cup that reached 63 million people on social media. We also developed a Gender Equality Curriculum & phase one research for the European Union SWinG Female Mentorship.

AFH Celebrates 13 Years at the 2019 Gala:

The AFH Gala this November was a smashing success! 320 guests joined us for a night of celebrations, as we honored philanthropic advisor Stephen Whisnant, Former NFL player and philanthropists Derrick and Emma Dockery, and professional soccer player Megan Oyster. We  are very close to confirming an event date and location (most likely mid- November) for 2020. Stay tuned! Read this wrap up of the event and view pictures.

Focusing Our Eyes on 2020:

Thank you for all you’ve done to support AFH this year- we wouldn’t be here without you. With your continued support, we can make 2020 the most impactful yet. If you would like to make a year-end donation to Athletes for Hope, you can do so here.

USC Athletes Give Back During the Day in Troy Event

On March 3, 2019 the AFH U team was excited to attend the Day in Troy event with several of the University of Southern California (USC) student-athlete teams. We were on site to help kick off the educational and fun day with an hour long Empowerment workshop with over 50 student-athletes from USC Rowing, Golf, Track and Field, and Soccer.

These student-athletes then took what they’d learned at the workshop and jumped right into the Day in Troy event on campus with over 5,000 kids and families from LA City Schools that were invited to participate. Student-athletes signed posters, cards and shirts while kids played carnival games, watched a Trojan Outreach video and Women’s Basketball game at the Galen Center. We loved being there to educate and inspire a new round of student-athletes to service, and seeing them put their enthusiasm to work by engaging with such a large group from the community. We look forward to connecting these teams to service and recognizing those efforts in the community. These student-athletes are excelling on the fields and in their academics and we couldn’t be prouder to work with them! Photos courtesy Scot Obler, Board of USC Trojan Outreach.

Vote for AFH U Student-Athlete and Team of the Year

Throughout this year, we’ve had monthly awards available to athletes and teams that are doing exceptional work. Every single one of our student-athletes does amazing work, but these athletes and teams have gone above and beyond the call, showing their personal devotion to volunteering and the causes they care about! This month, for National Student-Athlete Day, we will celebrate these nominations and the community will select a National Athletes for Hope University (AFH U) Student-Athlete and Team of the Year by voting in an online campaign!

Below are the student-athletes and teams that have been nominated throughout this academic year, as well as why they were nominated. Once you have read through, don’t forget to vote for your favorite student-athlete, team, or both!

AFHU Student Athletes of the Month:

Stephen Sepcich (Tulane Men’s Baseball)

Stephen is a great baseball student-athlete who started an organization called Hams for Fams to feed families in need in the New Orleans community. This group has gotten bigger each year and has made a tremendous impact on the lives of others. His work has helped address an unmet need in this community and has extended his service to include his Tulane baseball team.

Dajour Braxton (LSU Track & Field)

Dajour has been serving as team lead for LSU Track & Field since 2016. He has been a service advocate not only for his team but the LSU athletic community. Dajour rallied student athletes from all sports to come out in numbers for last year’s MLK Day of Service. He also makes consistent visits to University Terrace Elementary to read in library classes and lead AFH Power Up! Sessions in physical education classes.

Katie Kampen (LSU Women’s Volleyball)

Katie is a natural leader on and off of the court. She not only coordinates Power UP! sessions for the team at Glasgow Middle, but constantly seeks new opportunities to increase impact. She has volunteered with Baton Rouge Wheelchair Tennis Association, LSU CLAW, Knock Knock Children’s Museum, YMCA Brusly, Marathon Kids at St. James Academy, and The Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired.

Arabella Hall (Southern University Women’s Volleyball)

Following our workshops with Southern Volleyball in January 2017, Arabella Hall hit the ground running ready to serve Baton Rouge. She has served as an amazing team lead, coordinating various service events for her team such as MLK day of service and school visits at Progress Elementary. She has also made consistent visits on her own to Progress Elementary and have become an asset to their school community.

Robert Kennedy (Tulane University Football)

Robert Kennedy was nominated due to his willingness to serve the New Orleans community. Robert’s most recent service endeavors include our Tulane Athletics Service Day, in which he made Halloween Cards and goodie bags for hospitalized children, played sports with children at the YMCA, and took part in a beautification project at Longue Vue House and Gardens. He is always willing to help and has made a huge impact on others through his service work.

Erica Susi (UVA Women’s Tennis)

Erica Susi responds promptly, politely, and helpfully to AFH University emails. It is easy to tell that she is passionate about getting her team involved, and setting a precedent for the future of her team’s volunteerism even after she has graduated. Outside of Athletes For Hope, Erica worked hard to plan a fundraiser for Huntington’s Disease to take place this spring. Erica’s fundraiser allows her teammates to have another opportunity to volunteer for an important cause!


AFHU Teams of the Month:

Ohio State University Cross Country

The Ohio State University Cross Country spent time over the summer with the Boys and Girls Club and volunteered with kids in the program. This fall, they have started doing monthly visits at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital and working with Girls on the Run. While they can only do one hospital visit a month due to hospital policies, they jump in and quickly book up as man visits as possible with the kids! They are enthusiastic about giving back to our community.

Ohio State University Women’s Ice Hockey

Led by Captain Erin Langermeier, the team visits Nationwide Children’s Hospital every month and participates in evening activities geared toward improving the hospital experience for patients. So far the team has volunteered almost 50 hours of service to the hospital, and they look forward to growing the team’s relationship with the hospital! They continue to support the community both during their season and off season.

USC Women’s Lacrosse

The USC Lacrosse team participated in their first 1.0 and 1.5 AFH U workshops in September and immediately jumped into service opportunities. They hosted the Harlem Lacrosse LA team for a LAX session for inner city kids in Los Angeles and have plans for more service when they can! We loved their enthusiasm and can’t wait to see what more they do in their communities!

MSU Women’s Field Hockey

Led by Captain Bailey Higgins, the team visits two elementary schools in the Lansing every week as part of the Active Schools program, a national program dedicated to bringing physical fitness back to the school setting. During their visits the team helps facilitate physical fitness activities and promotes healthy lifestyles. Not only has the team visited the schools this semester, but this is their third year of volunteering with these schools!

You can vote for your favorite student-athlete, team, or both here!

AFH Staff Highlight: Suzanne Potts

The famous basketball coach Phil Jackson once said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” At Athletes for Hope, our team is strong because of people like our Director of Athletes for Hope University, Suzanne Potts. Suzanne comes to us with extensive nonprofit experience and an intense love for all things data. We sat down with Suzanne to ask her what drives her in her day to day work at AFH and what excites her most about the future of the organization.

What is your role at AFH?

My role at AFH is as the Director for Athletes for Hope University and I also manage all the Measurement and Evaluation (M&E) for the organization.  As AFH U Director, I get to educate and connect with thousands of student-athletes from various university partners across the country. We educate hundreds of new student-athletes each year and have thousands engaged in service in their community. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in service hours, athlete engagement, and positive news stories about student-athletes with more focused evaluation techniques and outreach. I enjoy seeing our AFH team dig deeper into analyzing our impact, looking at how we collect, analyze and share our data with stakeholders.  I truly think we’ve become a data-driven organization that focuses on evidence-based approaches to our work, and it’s exciting to see this evolution as a small nonprofit.

What has been your favorite AFH moment?

My favorite AFH moment has been coming out and visiting with AFH U student-athletes on their campus and facilitating our workshops with them. They have such enthusiasm, optimism and wonderful ideas on how they can best serve their community. I love hearing their discussions when we debate our “Agree/Disagree/Unsure” activity about athlete obligation to serve and am always so inspired by their dedication to academics, their respective sports and then adding service to others in their lives. Student-athletes are the best role models for young kids and communities as they are excelling on and off the field, and they have a huge opportunity to motivate others to lead positive, healthy lifestyles.

What makes AFH unique?

I believe what makes us unique is our ability to connect athletes to service and convene groups of athletes to causes that they may not have previously engaged with. We have such a broad network of partners and communities and paired with our over 5000 athletes who have done educational workshops with us we can really fill a huge gap for communities. I love that we help athletes individually or as teams identify and discover their passions, and then actually connect them with opportunities in those areas. It’s so awesome when you get to see these athletes do a school or hospital visit and see firsthand the impact they had just by spending an hour or so with others in need.

What excites you about the future?

I get excited to see how many more opportunities our student-athletes will have to engage in service both during school and post-graduation. We’re working to establish a really robust program that will support their service needs for more than just during their time on campus. We’re establishing life-long philanthropists with these student-athletes, and I hope to see long term outcomes with them engaged in service well after they step off the playing field. We’re just getting started to see what student-athletes can do in service for others, and our Alumni program and longer-term LinkedIn Group provide some ongoing support for those who want to continue on as AFH Athletes post-graduation. I am excited to do more Alumni Service projects on campus or bring back student-athletes to their universities to share their service experience with a new batch of student-athletes!


AFH University: Volunteering in Their Own Words

On Saturday, January 26th Athletes for Hope University participated in Louisiana Key Academy’s First Family Health & Sports Day. Four teams along with Baton Rouge Soccer Club came out and lead sports stations for not only kids but the entire family. The event encouraged healthy lifestyles for parents and students through interactive food preparation and various sports skills sessions.

We often share photos from our athlete connections, but this time we wanted to share what the experience meant to the athletes themselves. Here is what the AFH U student athletes had to say about volunteering last week.

Southern Soccer

“We had the privilege of playing games with and getting to know such amazing children at a youth field day for kids with dyslexia! It was a fantastic experience and I’m so glad that I got to share this experience with my teammates and other athletes of the Baton Rouge community!” -Amya Webb

“It was so fun working with the kids and seeing them put so much energy into what we taught. It feels good to be able to help and give back especially to my own community.”- Skylar Randall

“Today was an amazing experience. It was very fun watching the kids play against each other. They all kept great attitudes the entire time and really made our volunteering experience easy and enjoyable.” -Tempest Shepherd

LSU Soccer

“It’s so fulfilling to come out on a beautiful Saturday morning and work with kids. We showed them how playing soccer and getting active outside is so important and beneficial to mental & physical health” – Marlena Cutura

‘It was nice to get out and help BRSC and LKA with their health and sport camp today. Helping the kids develop their soccer and health understanding was great to be a part of.’ – Lucy Parker

LSU Volleyball

“I loved interacting with both the kids and the parents at field day today. It’s so fun to see the joy that volleyball and other sports bring them.”- Anna Zwiebel

“The LA Key Academy Field Day was a great way to start the morning! I had a blast teaching volleyball to the kids and parents.”-Sydney Mukes

“It was awesome to share our sport with children at the LA Key Academy on a beautiful day. We were even impressed by their parents’ participation and are excited to see our sport grow in the community.”- Katie Kampen

LSU Football

“Today was a lot of fun! We got to play soccer and volleyball with a great group of kids. Encouraging them and being open to talk to them about their dyslexia will go a long way in building their confidence and belief that they can do anything!”- Josh Growden

“It was such a fun experience to get out in the Baton Rouge community and connect with the kids. Being able to be active with them and for them to see what is possible if they set goals is incredible. We are so appreciative of Athletes for Hope for setting up events like this because often times the kids can have more of an impact on us than we do on them!”- Blake Ferguson

Thanks to all the AFH University student athletes who took time out of their busy schedules to give back to the kids. We’d also like to thank our funders The Pennington Family Foundation and Nike for allowing us to continue this valuable program in the Baton Rouge area.