The University of the Ozarks Athletic Department was recognized recently by the NCAA for the outstanding community service efforts of its student-athletes.
The NCAA announced last week that U of O finished third among NCAA Division III athletic programs in the Team Works Service Challenge.
NCAA Team Works, which coordinates community service efforts at the NCAA championships, launched the community service competition to recognize student-athletes who give back to their communities. The competition, which ran from September through November, is based on the number of service hours completed and the number of participating student-athletes. Helper Helper, a volunteer management and tracking platform, tracked the school participation data throughout the competition.
A total of 160 U of O student-athletes volunteered 693 hours of community service during the competition period. They participated in events ranging from trash pickup along local highways, to collecting and packing Christmas boxes for families in need, to opening doors and welcoming elementary students to school in the morning.
“Community service is important for the growth of the student-athlete,” said U of O Athletics Director Jimmy Clark. “Service gives them an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves and their team. It is something we want them to continue after they graduate from Ozarks. We are very proud of what our student-athletes do both on and off the court and field.”
Ozarks head baseball coach Aaron Gentry’s team opened car doors and greeted children as they arrived for school in the fall. The entire team wrapped up the service project with a book give-away at the school.
“It makes me extremely proud to watch our baseball team open car doors and greet young children as they come to school,” said Gentry. “I appreciate the Clarksville Primary School for allowing us to come out and serve in this way for almost the entire fall semester. For us, it is a great way to start the day, especially knowing it could have a positive impact on a child’s life. I know it makes a positive impact in my life and the lives of our players. It’s hard to leave there without a big smile on your face.”
The University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) volunteered its time and resources to assist in Operation Christmas Child, which involved packing a shoebox full of toys, hygiene kits, clothing and other needed items for impoverished children around the world.
Under the direction of head women’s soccer coach and senior woman administrator Natalie Dreyer, the athletic department has provided approximately 300 boxes the last four years.
“Operation Christmas Child impacted me because I can help those in impoverished conditions that I’m otherwise not able to physically be there to help,” said tennis player TJ Saniseng. “By helping fill shoeboxes, I was able to still contribute to those around the world. The reason I love helping with events like this is because it is heartwarming knowing that there are selfless people willing to contribute to people they don’t even know.”
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota took top honors in NCAA Division III in the Team Works Service Challenge and Shenandoah University finished second. Student-athletes across all NCAA divisions completed a total of 60,881 hours of community service through the challenge.