PICTURE: (From left to right): Janet Eaton, Wiley College athletics director; Chinwendu Mbah, Wiley women's basketball player; Alexia Davis, unit director of the Boys and Girls Club of Marshall; Jason Herrington, athletics director of the Boys and Girls Club.
By Alan Wiederhold, Sports Information Director, Wiley College (Texas)
Christmastime is a time for giving, and that spirit was not lost on the Wiley College department of athletics. With student-athletes and their teams leading the way, Wiley College athletics collected approximately 75 toys to distribute to children in the Marshall, Texas area.
"Community service is a pivotal part of what we do at Wiley," said Janet Eaton Wiley director of athletics. "We have more than 200 athletes on campus, and they all participated this fall in all the projected set up for them by their coaching staff."
Wiley College's Toy Drive, which benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Marshall, is in its fifth year.
"We try to reach out and help those that may not have a lot," head women's basketball coach Courtney Garrett-Pruitt said. "Some of our players may have come from similar backgrounds and remember what that is like, and want to make sure they can help everyone."
That generosity during the holiday season didn't even wait until Christmas. Eaton and several coaches (including head volleyball Nancy Sikobe and some of ther players) spent Thanksgiving the Trinity Church feeding and serving meals to needy families.
A Tradition of Giving Back
The women's basketball team has been all over Marshall, reaching out to children and young teenagers at Marshall Junior High School, Robert E. Lee Elementary School and Chriesman Prep School.
As a team, the Lady Wildcats worked the fall festival carnival at Chriesman, a school that caters to children with learning disabilities. At Robert E. Lee, the players participated in a walk-a-thon, interacting with each grade level as the school raised funds for the construction of a new playground, which was installed this month.
Wiley's men's basketball team has become a regular visitor at Kiddie Kollege Day Care in Marshall. Every Tuesday and Thursday, two players from the team visit to mentor and work with children in academics and physical activity.
"It's a great opportunity for the guys to give back to the community," head men's basketball coach Andre Payne said. "A lot of kids don't have a father figure or older brother, so seeing college basketball players is kind of like seeing a celebrity."
During their visits, Wildcat players read to the children and provide help in reading and writing assignments. They also lead and conduct physical activity and recess, emphasizing the importance of exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Meanwhile, the Lady Wildcats have also had opportunities to be role models to younger female athletes on the court. Their involvement at Marshall Junior High School has included refereeing interscholastic contests and also putting on skills clinics for the next generation of athletes.
A Community Effort
The presence of Wiley College student-athletes in the greater Marshall community has been the envy of area colleges. Every team has found a way to give back to the community through time and service.
The volleyball team routinely spends Sundays in town visiting residents at area nursing homes. The soccer teams volunteered time at the Wiseman House in Marsall, and even members of the cheerleading squad are regular visitors to Washington Elementary on holidays.
The Boys and Girls Club of Marshall have gotten to know several Wiley College student-athletes: The Wiley baseball team spent countless hours volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club. Meanwhile members of the track and field team are regular participants in Sam Houston Middle School's Wednesday Mentoring program.
And it's not just the younger children that have benefited from Wiley College's efforts in the community. Cross country runner Benodine Kosom and All-MidSouth region volleyball player Ingrid Mosquera are just two of the Wiley College student-athletes who have volunteered with Mandated Ministries, a nonprofit organization which provides academic, social and spiritual enrichment for teenagers.Through MM's summer camp at Wiley College, mandated ministries partnered with athletics and developed a solid relationship for the young ladies to attended games and social networking. Many of the athletes volunteered over the summer time to help in the academics area.
"It's important to learn how to give back to the community," Pruitt said. "It's what servant leadership is all about and what being part of Wiley College is all about."