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AFH Staff Highlight: Suzanne Potts

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.

AFH University Baton Rouge Student Athletes Honor Dr. King Through Service

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., AFH U teams in Baton Rouge participated in The Walls Project 5th annual MLK Festival of Service. Projects such as MLK Day of Service is an initiative of The Walls Project with the purpose of revitalizing and reactivating neighborhoods through artistic engagement.

Student athletes from Southern University and Louisiana State University were excited to engage in various beautification projects over the course of the four day event. AFH U teams activated on Winbourne Avenue, from N. Acadian Thwy to BREC’s Howell Park. From painting houses, removing debris, to gardening, student athletes were eager to serve. Teams shared their experience as a great way to empower their community, meet local leaders, and bond with their teammates.

Southern Soccer

“Today we celebrated MLK Day by decorating the city of Baton Rouge with our artistic creations. We also helped distribute garden supplies to various project sites. It was a fun day spent with my team and other members of the community.”- Jessica Gutierrez

Southern Track & Field

“Engaging in community service not only makes a difference to the community, but it also gives students and others opportunities to meet new people. It’s always a good feeling to come together and help someone for a good cause without being asked.”-Dominique Dorsey

Southern Volleyball

“On MLK Day, we painted houses and businesses as well as gardened along Winbourne Avenue. We were happy to serve by beautifying our community and giving back to the citizens of Baton Rouge. ” -Arabella Hall

LSU Track & Field

“I helped with the MLK mural project, priming buildings for artists to paint their murals. Giving back always feels great, especially on a day dedicated to a man who did so much for this country!” -Erika Lewis

LSU Volleyball

“The LSU Volleyball team got together to help paint houses in the Howell Park community. During this time we were able to serve and connect with others in the Baton Rouge community in honor of Dr. King. We had an awesome time painting houses and serving the community! We even made friends with a couple of Southern University track athletes while working. It was great seeing everyone come together for a great cause.” -Sydney Mukes

LSU Beach Volleyball

“Well this is a funny story…a guy drove past us while we were out and said, ‘We love y’all!’ And it’s great to see so many people beautifying the city and joining together in this project!” – Katie Berowski

Thank you to all of the AFH U teams that came out to volunteer. Keep up the amazing work in your community!

AFH University Celebrates the November Student Athlete and Team of The Month

We are so thankful for our Athletes for Hope University (AFH U) members and the great work that they all did this past month. To date this year, all of you have already tripled the number of service hours that student-athletes have given back to communities for the first few months of the school year! We are grateful for the incredible work that these teams do to support so many worthy causes.

Did you know? November was Pancreatic Cancer and Prematurity Awareness Month so many of our AFH U student-athletes were out supporting cancer or other childhood health and wellness events. Every month is a different awareness month so let us know if there’s a cause that is important to you so we can connect your team to that work.

The “Planksgiving” Challenge was in full steam with our Power Up! Program sites last month. Student-athletes encouraged kids at the Power Up! Schools to see how many of them could hold a plank for 30 seconds. Find out more about our Power Up! Program here. We are grateful for our partners at Nike for allowing us to continue to expand our work in the physical activity space through the Power Up! Program. Student-Athlete and Team of the Month: We sent out a link

planks

Every month AFH U honors those showing dedication to service. This month, we highlight the Ohio State Cross Country team and Tulane Football’s Robert Kennedy for going above and beyond in their communities.
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.

Robert Kennedy, from Tulane Football, 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, playing sports with children at the YMCA, and taking part in a beautification project at Longue Vue House and Gardens. He is always willing to help.

We would not be able to do this incredible work without a base of funders supporting us. We are so thankful to our funders Nike and The Pennington Family Foundation, for enabling us to work in Louisiana communities and beyond. Their support over the last few years has been instrumental in the expansion of the AFH University program to even more sites and allowed AFHU athletes to give back in valuable and enriching ways. Thank you to Nike and Pennington Family Foundation for all you do for AFH U!

AFH Staff Highlight: Kenya Warren-Hollins

A lot goes on behind the scenes at Athletes for Hope to ensure every athlete, team and charity have a fulfilling connection experience. Our teammate on the ground in Louisiana, Kenya Warren-Hollins, is a great example of how all the moving parts of connections can come together. Kenya has worked on the AFH University program for the last 3 years in Baton Rouge connecting students at LSU and Southern University to charitable opportunities in the community. She also works with the incredible organization City Year in Baton Rouge. We sat down with Kenya to ask her why she works with AFH and what motivates her in her career.

“The full cycle of the AFH U program is a rewarding experience. From helping student athletes get excited about service and identifying causes their passionate about, connecting them to local non-profits and schools, to seeing the joy on the faces of the individuals they visit. My favorite thing is the impact it makes on student athletes and the community in which I love. My career is a depiction of my passion for service and expertise in relationship development.”

One of Kenya’s favorite AFH moments was the service that took place in the aftermath of the historic flood in 2016. Student athletes from Southern and LSU mobilized the city of Baton Rouge through service and came together for a great cause. When asked why she enjoys her job Kenya replied, “It excites me to know AFH is truly making a difference and making lasting impacts on the communities we serve. We’re only getting better!”

AFH University Celebrates Most Impactful Year Ever

During the 2017-2018 school year, we saw tremendous progress in our AFH University (AFH U) program due to a significant investment of time and resources in measurement and evaluation, leveraging technology more efficiently, expanding our curriculum, working closely with on-the-ground program managers, and hiring an AFH U National Director to lead this program. While we initiated the process of developing and establishing AFH communities in new markets, we simultaneously worked to deepen relationships with existing universities, community partners and student leaders.

This past year, AFH U facilitated 20 workshops and had over 223 connections with over 1191 college athletes. We saw nearly a 100% increase in the amount of volunteer hours (4,456) that AFH U athletes put towards their charitable involvement, which signifies an increased commitment from AFH U athletes to the community causes they care about.

We also continue to deepen relationships with team leads and liaisons to better understand program needs. We met with various Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) groups to seek input and develop a more robust strategic plan for AFH U. We are excited to build momentum in the 2018-2019 school year as we expand and deepen our program impact at existing universities while we strategically grow AFH U in new communities. For more information on program impact, see infographic below.