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Black History Month Essay Contest

Black History Month Essay Contest

Baton Rouge Godmother Inspires Teen

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.

AFH University Service Recognition

Each month we ask our AFH University campus liaisons for nominations of student-athletes and teams who excelled in service. Through our monthly nominations, we are able to acknowledge all of the good our student-athletes and teams are doing in their communities.

I really enjoyed being able to help the kids have fun for a small part of their day. I hope it brightened their day as much as it did mine.

Doria Martingayle, LSU Track & Field

Student-Athlete of the Month

Our February student-athlete of the month is Doria Martingayle from LSU. She continues to serve her community through monthly visits to Our Lady Of The Lake Children’s Hospital and encourages her teammates to join her.

“Doria visited OLOL Children’s Hospital to encourage patients and bring a little normalcy through games in the activity room.”

Team of the Month

The February team of the month was none other than Southern University’s bowling team. The SWAC champions hosted a 2-hour clinic where they encouraged senior citizens in the Baton Rouge community to get active through bowling!

“Southern University Women’s Bowling team hosted senior citizens from the Charles R. Kelly Community Center. The SWAC champs shared their tricks and how bowling is a great way to stay physically active.”

We are so proud of all of our student-athletes and teams who continue to help better their communities through service.

AFH University Service Recognition

January Student-Athlete & Team of the Month

Each month we ask our AFH University campus liaisons for nominations of student-athletes and teams who excelled in service. Through our monthly nominations, we are able to acknowledge all of the good our student-athletes and teams are doing in their communities.

Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces made us appreciate the opportunity that we had as kids and being able to take advantage of that [opportunity] to put us in the position to be influential to others is a blessing.

Jerry Burkett II, Southern Baseball

Student-Athlete of the Month

Our January student-athlete of the month is Jerry Burkett II from Southern University. He has been an integral part of service for his baseball team and continues to be a leader both on and off the field.

“Jerry Burkett II is a leader on the campus of Southern University and a leader in service for his team. Jerry has participated in all service events with his team while also capturing content. Last November, he assisted with meal prep for St.Vincent de Paul’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. He also serves on this year’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for Southern.”

Team of the Month

The January team of the month was none other than Howard University’s women’s lacrosse team. On Martin Luther King Day, the team spent countless hours handing out clothes and food to the city of D.C.’s most vulnerable through community partner So What Else.

“The Women’s Lacrosse Team should be recognized for January because of their MLK Day of Service with So What Else’s Meal and Clothing Distribution. The distribution was kind of slow due to no one coming to get food or clothing so I got the girls to mobilize the sandwiches around the city to anyone who may have been in need of a meal.”

We are so proud of all of our student-athletes and teams as they continue to selflessly give back to their communities.

Athletes In Action

Honoring The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On the third Monday of each new year, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by engaging in service projects throughout our communities nationwide. To many, Dr. King was a visionary. Uplifting his community through systemic change and encouraging others to take an active role in improving their communities.

His example is our call to action.

Our AFH University student-athletes from LSU, Southern, and Howard answered that call through eight (8) service projects in their own communities ranging from mural painting, planting shrubs, walking dogs, providing food and clothing for the less fortunate, and more.

Serve D.C.

The Howard University women’s and men’s golf teams kicked off volunteering on Saturday, January 14, with Serve DC. Together they packaged meals, created go kits, and learned critical CPR training.

Life’s most persistant and urgent questions is, “what are you doing for others?”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Peace Walk & Parade

On MLK Day, the Howard Swim & Dive team and the tennis team participated in the Peace Walk and Parade in the morning- a tradition that started over 40 years ago. The Peace Walk and Parade symbolizes the need to continue Dr. King’s work and reinforces the idea that every individual has a role to play in human progress and justice. 

If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Louisiana Key Academy

Monday, LSU Athletics hosted a “Live the Dream” Field Day at Louisiana Key Academy. Over 50 kids participated in the interactive service initiative with various stations facilitated by student-athletes highlighting their perspective sports.

MLK Day is special to me because I love giving back to my community. God has blessed me all my life and being able to give back to these kids and see them happy and smiling means the world to me.

Aristotle Abraham II, LSU Football

Forest Community Park

On Monday, Southern Volleyball, LSU Men’s Basketball, and LSU Volleyball assisted in forest restoration by planting shrubs and trees at Forest Community Park. Student-athletes moved plants from the parking lot to the restoration area, dug holes, and planted and watered plants.

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.

Martin Luther King

So What Else

On Monday afternoon, Howard women’s basketball, football, and lacrosse took various shifts at So What Else – whose mission is to improve the lives of children and families living in underserved communities in the Baltimore-Washington Metro Area- where they distributed meals and clothes to those less fortunate in the D.C. area. 

Doing community service on MLK Day is important to me because he [Dr. King] dedicated his entire life to service in the Black community. It’s only right that on this day we pay tribute and serve those around us.

Kaniyah Harris, Howard Women’s Basketball

The Walls Project

Southern Baseball, Southern Soccer, LSU Golf, and LSU Soccer joined The Walls Project for their annual mural painting. Student-athletes painted a mural design sketched by a local artist and assisted with clean up at Jewel J. Newman Community Center.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

Martin Luther King Jr.

St. Vincent de Paul

LSU student-athletes from various sports served in the dining hall at St. Vincent de Paul which provides hot meals to Baton Rouge’s homeless community daily.

Friends of the Animals

At the final service project on Monday, student-athletes from various LSU sports teams engaged with a new partner, Friends of the Animals Baton Rouge Shelter. They walked dogs and assisted shelter staff with general cleaning.

The life and legacy of Dr. King lives on through people like our student-athletes, who continue to dedicate themselves to bettering their community. While MLK Day has passed, you can still honor his legacy by taking the AFH MLK Service Day Pledge.

AFH University Service Recognition

November & December Student-Athlete & Team of the Month

Each month we ask our AFH University campus liaisons for nominations of student-athletes and teams who excelled in service. Through our monthly nominations, we are able to acknowledge all of the good our student-athletes and teams are doing in their communities.

Community service to me is all about creating meaningful connections. Giving back is a great way to strengthen ties with an amazing community that has given my team and I so much. It brings me a great deal of happiness to be able to make the slightest difference in someone’s day. I hope to continue to stay involved with the community through all of the connections that I have been able to make playing at Southern University

Londyn Lau, Southern Softball ’22

November 2022

Student-Athlete of the Month

Our November student-athlete of the month is Helen Feldmeth from Georgetown University. This AFH intern has gone above and beyond to connect her rowing team and other athletes to service.

“Helen has been consistently involved with service on and off of campus. She single-handedly started a letter-writing campaign for elderly people across the country, collecting over 170 letters written by student-athletes on Georgetown’s campus. Not only has she been a leader in service she is also still in training with the women’s rowing program. Her attitude and determination towards AFH U and service in her community have not gone unnoticed!”

Team of the Month

Our November team of the month was none other than Bowie State University’s women’s basketball team. During the holiday season, this team set new standards for service and also rose to the challenge during the Bowie State athletics canned food drive.

“This team stood out, having the most canned goods for the November food drive amongst all the other sports teams and donating to the local food bank. They were a huge factor in collecting over 50 lbs. of food for the local food bank. Their willingness to participate and their enthusiasm for the cause was incredibly inspirational!”

December 2022

Student-Athlete of the Month

Our December student-athlete of the month is Londyn Lau from Southern University. She has been an integral part of service in the Baton Rouge community and has been a leader alongside her softball team since she was a freshman.

“Londyn Lau has been an active community service leader alongside her team Southern Softball for the last 4 years. She has been involved in several initiatives such as our 9/11 Emergency Preparedness events, MLK Day of Service, Miracle League, OLOL hospital visits, and Progress Elementary school visits. In honor of Thanksgiving, this year we served at a series of events happening in Baton Rouge. Londyn helped with set up for the Council on Aging’s Thanksgiving Luncheon. While her team traveled home for the holiday, she insisted on serving alone and assisting with meal prep for St.Vincent De Paul’s annual holiday dinner.”

Team of the Month

The December team of the month was none other than Georgetown Track & Field. Aside from making time to do team community service, they have given the gift of gear to young athletes around the D.C. area- and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!

“The Georgetown Track and Field Team sat down for a letter-writing activity and wrote 65 letters to be delivered to senior citizens in need of love from the community. The team has also maintained a gear collection box in their locker, mainly donating shoes and other gently used items.”

We are so proud of all of our student-athletes and teams as they continue to pour into their communities through meaningful philanthropic work.

Athletes in Action

Serving Up Food, Friendship and Gratitude

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 Rouge Serves 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.