As Athletes for Hope (AFH) spent February celebrating the contributions and positive impacts of African American trailblazers, we partnered with our AFH University Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) athletic departments, asking high schoolers in their communities to share a story of an African American that has been an inspiration to them.
The outpouring of submissions from students was incredible. We are honored to share with you the story of the winner of our AFH Black History Month Essay Contest from Scotlandville Magnet High School.
Meet The Winner
The standout winner from the Southern University community was track & field state champion, Madyson.
On March 4, Madyson was recognized for her essay at the Southern University vs. Alabama A&M basketball game. While she was unable to attend due to a track meet, she was visited by AFH Program Manager, Kenya warren-Hollins, who congratulated her and awarded her with a Southern University swag pack, school supplies, and more!
Read Her Essay
Black History Month Essay Topic: Shirley Clayton
Madyson’s essay was a beautiful tribute to her godmother, Shirley Clayton. An ExxonMobil chemist and Southern University alumni, Clayton continues to give back to the Baton Rouge community any chance she can.
She’s always willing to offer help to anyone in need and do anything even if it is small or big. As I continue blossoming into a woman I aspire to be just like my Godmother.
To read Madyson’s Black History Month Essay, click here.
Written by: Kenya Warren-Hollis, MPA, Program Manager, AFH University
For our AFH University student-athletes, the weeks before Thanksgiving are often met with studying for finals, trips back home, and winter workouts. For our Baton Rouge campuses, the week before Thanksgiving also meant an opportunity to give back to various members of their community through a week-long service project they entitled “Baton RougeServes With Purpose.”
As our AFH University campuses are focused on tackling the disparities of food insecurity this winter, our AFH U Baton Rouge student-athletes wanted to do their part by volunteering at various community organizations that routinely provide food, warmth, and friendship to those less fortunate.
Monday, November 14
The LSU Beach Volleyball Team kicked off AFH Baton Rouge’s “Serves with Purpose” week at Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank (GBRFB). The team worked together and assembled Thanksgiving meal boxes that were then distributed to GBRFB’s eleven parish service areas- many of which experience high levels of food insecurity.
I enjoyed getting a chance to give back during a season centered around being grateful. It was nice to have an opportunity to remind me of all I have to be thankful for.
Reilly Allred, LSU beach volleyball
In preparation for the EBR Council on Aging’s Annual Thanksgiving luncheon, Southern Softball stopped by The Baker Municipal Center a day before the big event to help with set up. They were able to set up over 60 tables and 480 chairs to accommodate senior citizens attending the event on Tuesday.
Tuesday, November 15
Southern University Volleyball had the pleasure of serving over 400 seniors from East Baton Rouge Council on Aging centers including Baker Senior Center, Greater King David Senior Center, Jewel J. Newman Senior Center, and Chaneyville Senior Center.
Event attendees were thankful for the extra hands as student-athletes and coaches assisted them throughout the luncheon. The team even had the opportunity to meet Councilwoman Chauna Banks, Constable Terrica Williams, and City of Baker Mayor, Darnell Waites.
Wednesday, November 16
Student-athletes from LSU Gymnastics and Golf continued our biweekly visit to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s hospital. They had the opportunity to read books in the activity room, facilitate games, and visit patient rooms.
I loved having the opportunity to serve at OLOL children’s hospital and being able to make a small difference in a child’s day. Seeing them smile when in a difficult circumstance is a beautiful thing.
Michael Sanders, LSU Golf
Thursday, November 17
Southern University Football continued our AFH BR “Serves with Purpose” Week at St.Vincent de Paul. Student-athletes served lunch on a serving line, passed out to-go lunches, and engaged with guests throughout the visit. Before each lunch, dining hall coordinators take the time to pray with guests. AFH Intern and Southern student-athlete Caleb Washington took the initiative to lead everyone in prayer and uplift guests before receiving a hot meal.
St. Vincent de Paul staff and guests were excited to meet Southern Football players ahead of the Bayou Classic, where Southern won against Grambling State 36 – 14, and the student-athletes were equally excited for the opportunity to interact with them.
Friday, November 18
Southern University Baseball closed out our week of service at a Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway hosted by Councilman Cleve Dunn and Collegiate Baton Rouge. Players passed out over 200 turkeys to families, toured the Collegiate Baton Rouge campus, and engaged with students. They also had an opportunity to be interviewed by Metro 21, the East Baton Rouge government channel that broadcasts to 150,000 households.
Today was a perfect full-circle experience, being able to work hand in hand with high school students sharing knowledge while also reminiscing on our high school days. We got to tour the school which allowed us to see the direction in which the next generation of leaders is taking us. On top of that giving turkeys to the community and seeing the smiles on their faces made us appreciate the opportunity that we had as kids and being able to take advantage of that to put us in the position to be influential to others.
Jerry Burkett II, Southern University baseball
The holiday season is a time when we are able to reflect on all that we are grateful for and this year our student-athletes haven’t stopped saying how grateful they are to be able to give back to their communities. We are looking forward to hosting more week-long service projects across our AFH University campuses in the future.
On Friday, July 31st Southern Soccer and Southern Volleyball volunteered at a Three O’Clock Project food distribution site, Full Gospel United Pentecostal in North Baton Rouge. With the commitment to keeping kids physically active through our service, student athletes distributed 120 fitness items to kids sponsored by Athletes for Hope.
“Athletes for Hope athletes were truly emotionally invested in what we’re doing to help feed the community and spread a little hope. We are so happy to have them. They did a great job passing out balls to the kids while we distributed meals. It was a wonderful experience. Thank you so much!”- Joshua Michael Selser, Three O’Clock Project.
The mission of Three O’Clock Project is to provide meals and nutrition education for at-risk students after school. In response to the COVID19 shutdown, Three O’Clock Project reached beyond their mission of only after school and began delivering weekly meals to ensure kids and the community were supported during the school shut downs and summer months.
“I loved giving back to my community of Baton Rouge. I know how it’s been tough for families to work right now and to supply food for their family. Being able to give them supplies that they need and seeing people be so grateful and smiling was the highlight of my day, especially giving out balls for kids to encourage physical activity at home. I’m glad SU soccer & Volleyball were able to assist with making a huge impact on more than 100 children’s lives!” – Skylar Randall, Southern Soccer
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.
“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
“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
“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!
Over 600 varsity college athletes who are part of the Athletes for Hope University program have been impacted by the flooding in Baton Rouge, LA. A large group of these athletes have spent considerable time giving back to those in need in the Baton Rouge community.
“We are really grateful for the support that this community shows to our team and all of LSU Athletics. We are more than happy to give back in any way possible and look forward to continue helping rebuild the community in the near future”- Kelly Quinn, LSU Volleyball.
Below are a few examples of the tremendous work that AFH U teams have done in the Baton Rouge community over the past few days:
Thank you, athletes, for doing what you do best – inspiring others. We want to support you in your efforts. If your team needs help in identifying a way to give back to the community, please contact us.