By Joel Delgado ’12, MS ’17
Growing up with a father and uncles who helped him become the man he is today, men’s basketball senior guard Marco Porcher Jimenez knows how important good role models are in life.
Because of the role they played in his life, Jimenez embraces the opportunity to encourage and give hope to children whom may not have a mentor or father figure in their lives.
“I was fortunate to have someone push me along the right path and show me right from wrong, but not everyone has that,” said Jimenez. “A lot of the kids we help come from poor families or don’t have father-figures, and as a kid you need that. Anything I can do to help someone, whether it’s just a few words or keeping in touch, I want to do it.”
This summer, Jimenez and his teammates took part in a number of different community service initiatives, including volunteering at Chapman Partnership where they held a basketball clinic for the elementary-aged kids residing at the homeless shelter.
FIU student-athletes have worked on a wide variety of projects and outreaches in the community through the years, from the men’s soccer team helping serve lunches to the homeless at Miami Rescue Mission to members of the football team speaking to students at Pine Villa Elementary about the importance of education and hard work.
Assistant Athletic Director of Student-Athlete Development Liz Agustin, who helps arrange and organize different events and outreaches, says she has seen more student-athletes take the initiative when it comes to going out into the community and volunteering their time.
For student-athletes, it’s also an opportunity to work on skills such as communication, leadership and networking that will help them long after they leave campus. But more importantly, many want to have a positive influence on those whom they serve.
“They are role models so it’s their responsibility to use their influence in a good way. They are really active in the community, involved in almost everything out there,” Agustin said. “These events and outreaches are a great way to humble them and keep things in perspective. It lets them know there are bigger things in the world going on.”
Since the beginning of the Fall 2008 semester, FIU student-athletes have completed more than 25,250 hours of service in the community. From the beginning of the Summer 2013 semester to the end of the Spring 2014 semester, they logged a total of 4,256 hours of community service.
This summer alone, student-athletes from all teams volunteered 273 hours in the community on a variety of projects.
The football team volunteered at the Miami Football Festival organized by the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department, providing football training and motivation for the children attending. They also organized a “Panther for a Day” event for disabled kids attending Camp Cantecumbe. Wide receiver Richard Burrows, who completed his internship at the camp this summer, came up with the idea.
Student-athletes from men’s basketball, football, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s track and field visited with patients at Lou Holtz Children’s Hospital – even celebrating many birthdays.
The women’s soccer team partnered with the Florida Gators to host a soccer clinic for Girl’s Place, a local non-profit organization in Gainesville, FL. Together, the two teams helped teach small groups of girls technical soccer skills and played fun games like red light, green light.
Women’s soccer has consistently led FIU Athletics in community service. From Summer 2013 to Spring 2014, the team’s members put in 1,100 hours of service.
“All of our service projects are aimed at helping a group in need,” said women’s soccer Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt. “We feel that focusing on areas of real need also helps our student-athletes have a better understanding of how fortunate they are. We should all lend a hand to make the world we live in be a better place. When we have an impact locally, it helps globally.”
TAKING THE INITIATIVE
Women’s soccer midfielder Sara Stewart served the highest number of hours in the community this summer, volunteering 171 hours at two animal clinics while visiting her hometown in Canada.
Stewart, a redshirt junior majoring in biology, is an aspiring veterinarian and helped staff members at the clinics care for all types of animals – common house pets, racehorses and show horses.
“We like to give back to the community because it is a privilege for us to be here and we really enjoy making a difference in other people’s lives,” Stewart says of herself and her teammates. “It not only gives me experience in the field but it gives me a chance to help people and animals out as well.”