The University Record, October 11, 1999

Athletic Department joins with public schools in ‘Reach for the Stars’

By Jane R. Elgass

“Sometimes I make them smile, I tell them stories, I sign autographs. I make a little bit of their day better and that makes my day better,” said Erryn Weggenman Sept. 30.

A tennis player and senior majoring in sports management, Weggenman visits young patients at Mott Children’s Hospital as part of the STARS program of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

STARS—Success through aThletics, Academics, caReer development and community Service—is designed to support and enhance student-athletes’ exposure to volunteerism through individual, team and departmental activities.

Weggenman shared her feelings about participating in community service activities during the launch of “Reach for the Stars,” a partnership between the Athletic Department and the Ann Arbor Public Schools, under the auspices of the Schools’ Partners for Excellence Program.

Weggenman noted that being a student at Michigan puts one in a “rare situation, one in which we can give back to the community that’s given so much to us.”

Rossi Ray-Taylor, recently installed superintendent of schools, noted that the University is the centerpiece of the Ann Arbor community and a partnership with the U-M “is especially important.” The partnership will take nurturing, she continued, and vowed to make certain that any bumps along the way will be ironed out.

Taylor noted that the activities the U-M athletes will participate in, such as tutoring and noontime enrichment activities, will benefit the younger students and also will expose them to the “core values [of the Athletic Department] and values we hold important. We thank the Athletic Department for stepping forward.”

Athletic Director Tom Goss noted that the STARS program was started a year ago as a way of “getting all student-athletes involved in giving back something to the community.” While they all have demanding schedules, “they get as excited as playing their sport” when they participate in community service projects.

Asked recently by Goss what his best experience has been, a second-year golfer said, “Michigan allows me to get involved in the community. That’s one of the highlights.”

The U-M has about 700 student-athletes and Goss said the Department looks forward to giving them another challenge through the Reach for the Stars program.

“They continue to be educated through community service. They appreciate the art of giving back. It’s just as good as winning a national championship or an NCAA title,” he said.

Activities that will be part of Reach for the Stars include:

  • Tutoring elementary and middle school students.

  • Noon-hour activities at elementary schools.

  • SHARE—Student-athletes Helping to Achieve Reading Excellence.

  • Observance of National Women and Girls Sports Day in February 2000.

    The Partners for Excellence Program, established in 1985, promotes the formation of partnerships between the public schools and businesses and community organizations. There are now 40 such partnerships, the one with the U-M among four new ones this year.