|Latesha Tigner of Ypsilanti received a visit from athletes Jay Vancik, Shanon Melka, Catherine Ross, and others Oct. 25. (Photos by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)|
One of these, From the Heart, allows student athletes to visit sick children at U-Ms Mott Childrens Hospital. The program was started several years ago by Ed Bouillon, whose daughter was a patient at Mott Hospital. Through the coordinated efforts of the staff, Bouillon, and April Bayles, director of student athlete development, student athletes visit patients every Thursday during the academic year. Each athletic team is designated to a different Thursday night, while some athletes choose to participate every week. At the visits, the athletes hand out special autographed hats that the children are able to take home at the end of their stay. On Oct. 25, athletes spread Halloween cheer by making the rounds in costume and handing out candy to patients so they too could experience trick or treating.
Bayles coordinates many other programs the athletes are involved in, too. She makes the connections between her office (which is part of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics), outside agencies and individually with student athletes.
The STARS Lifeskills program is at the center of student-athlete development. Bayles says that the programs goal is to help student athletes in three areas: leadership training, community service and career development. To focus athletes on these goals, STARS and Athletics support student organizations, such as the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), the student-athlete government on campus. Representatives from each varsity team and SAACs executive board work to engage student athletes in the University and Ann Arbor community.
In addition to supporting student organizations, STARS works to engage athletes in community service. Of all the programs that STARS has to offer, Bayles believes that student athletes enjoy doing community service the most. Annual projects abound for the athletes participation.
|Nurse Sandy, left, lends a hand to Mott patient Josie, who celebrated her second birthday last week, and her mother, Shauna Welles. (Photos by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)|
The First Mentors Program is another project that allows student athletes to work with children. First Mentors collaborates with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and the National Association of Collegiate Directors. The mentorship program pairs each athlete with a little sib. This semester, 26 student athletes are volunteering to work with 13 little sibs.
Athletics and STARS also promote National Girls and Womens Sports Day. An essay contest is open to all middle school students in Washtenaw County with the theme Women Role Models in Sports. This essay contest aims to help build the self-esteem of middle school students, through the identification of athletes as positive role models. Other community service programs that student athletes participate in are the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program, the Speakers Bureau and the Jeff Reese Scholarship Fund.
Time spent working with these programs each week adds up. In order to recognize the athletes special efforts, Bayles office and STARS presents an annual award to one mens and one womens team. Community service hours are tracked with a special formula so that even small teams have an opportunity to win the award.
For Bayles, the programs offered by STARS and Athletics do more than just prepare student athletes for the world outside the University. Community service projects help build leadership and career skills, along with making lifelong impressions on the children and the athletes. Bayles says that the programs touch every one of the student athletes in some way.