There is a major need for all athletes to give back to their communities. Those who participate in athletics are put on a pedestal and are looked up to by younger kids who play sports, and I can testify to this. When I was in elementary and middle school, stand-out players such as Thomas Bernal (class of 2010), Jacob Searcy (class of 2011), and Elias Stokes (class of 2012) were all people that I highly regarded and wanted to be like when I entered high school.
Young kids look to older athletes like this and want to replicate what they do, so if those same athletes are getting involved in their communities, then that will become a breeding ground for a positive feedback loop in the future. When athletes participate in community service, it can produce results that few other people could.
I have witnessed this first hand by being a part of Advanced Peer and the Athletes as Readers and Leaders program. It is a truly amazing experience when you can enter an elementary or middle school and all the kids are energized just by the mere presence of a high school athlete being at their school to visit them.
In Advanced Peer, we are linked with children who the school has decided could use a mentor in their life and we just hang out and talk about life, school, and sports. Being of such high status in their eyes, most of the time they truly listen and take to heart the advice we give them. Other athletes in these two programs help to instill positive traits like being respectful, hard-working and attentive in the classroom and in everyday life. The kids that I have paired with are some of the nicest kids I have met in my life and just need a little bit of guidance from someone they respect.
This is exactly why the need for athletes to give by to their communities is so huge. Even though most athletes view themselves as just a normal high school student, the voice and respect that they carry is something we can use to help bring positive change to future generations of Bearcats.