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Student athletes work with Farmington Warrior to Citizen Group

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For military families with kids, a fun day out can go a long way toward easing the strain of having a parent deployed. Last Saturday, the Farmington Warrior to Citizen group, working with University of Minnesota athletes, organized a military family picnic and sports camp for dozens of kids and their parents.

"The Gopher athletes did a terrific job and it was fun to see them out there with the kids," said Annette Kuyper, lead organizer of the Farmington Warrior to Citizen group. "The Blackhawk helicopter landing and the rock climbing wall were highlights, as was the photographer who donated her time to take professional family pictures and immediately e-mail them to the deployed soldiers."

Last January, Victor Almstrom (Men's Golf), Erin Desmond (Rowing), Christine Herzog (Women's Golf), and Tom Buske (Baseball) established contacts with Farmington organizers through the Warrior to Citizen Campaign. They used what they'd learned from a sports clinic they organized last fall to recruit other athletes and work with coaches to secure equipment. They received mentoring and reflected on their development as leaders and organizers through an independent study class through the Center for Democracy and Citizenship. Herzog Desmond.jpg

When I talked with Erin and Christine, they said that it was clear from Student Advisory Committee meetings that other athletes want to do more than one-time anti-smoking presentations or talks on healthy eating. "They want to have a bigger impact on a bigger group of people," said Erin. So she and her team created a guide to organizing a community sports clinic, including how to get volunteers, how to work with the athletes' life skills program, and what to do at different sports stations. The handbook has already been used by a couple of football players, said Erin. "It's fun to see our hard work paying off," added Christine.

Erin and another student also asked to make a presentation at the monthly head coaches meeting. They wanted to talk about the one-to-one relationship building they were learning and the value for student athletes. "Before, I would have agonized over it," said Erin. But because of opportunities to practice public speaking, including working with the Farmington group and emceeing a presentation by student journalists last fall, she was "not as frazzled." Talking about her own experience and being passionate about organizing training also made her feel confident, she said.

Erin and Christine would like the community sports camp to become a once-a-semester event. "Athletes get a lot, and it's important to give back to the community," said Christine. Given that there's already a healthy competition among teams to demonstrate their commitment to community, that shouldn't be a problem.

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Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs