Amherst LEADS Holds "Caring Deeply" Event

Contact: Reilly Horan ’13

AMHERST, Mass. – On Tuesday, Mar. 29, the Amherst LEADS program hosted an event to encourage student-athletes to engage in their community. The event, called “Caring Deeply,” is the fifth part of a year-long series of events directed at Amherst College’s first-year student-athletes in the First Year Initiative Program.

As an Athletics Liaison, Roshard Bryant '13 helps pair
sports teams with community engagement initiatives.

“Essentially, what we were trying to get at in this segment was that we need to expand our idea of leadership from within athletics to outside of that sphere,” said Gregg DiNardo, director of the Amherst LEADS program. “This is an effort to go outside the boundaries of athletics and be leaders in the community.”

The hour-long event was broken down into three parts: (1) an exercise with two of the Athletics Liaisons from Amherst’s Center for Community Engagement, (2) an interactive exercise using canned goods that each student-athlete brought to the event, and (3) a keynote speech from Joey Cheek, Olympian speed skater and activist for the Darfur crisis.

Athletics Liaisons Roshard Bryant ’13 and Irene Hickey ’13 started the night off by introducing themselves and describing their role of pairing Amherst’s sports teams with community engagement initiatives. They conducted an exercise about community engagement, asking the student-athletes to rank a list of community engagement projects, then to analyze those rankings.

Community engagement projects that were being ranked included initiatives ranging from holding a sports clinic for a youth group, to helping an elderly woman cross the street. “It was an activity designed to encourage discussion about how students perceive community engagement, and how they can incorporate it into their lives,” said Hickey.

“We saw a trend in how student-athletes ranked the various community engagement projects,” Bryant added. “As they ranked each project, we found athletes wanted to use their skills—team building, one-on-one contact with people, communication, and physical activity—to get involved with their community.”

After analyzing the rankings, student-athletes participated in the more interactive component of the night. Using canned goods they had brought to the event to be donated to the Amherst Survival Center, the students designed and played a miniature golf course.

Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek encouraged Amherst's
students to work toward a greater good outside of athletics.

The first-year students then heard from the night’s keynote speaker, Joey Cheek.  A three-time Olympic medalist, Cheek notably won the gold for 500-meter speed skating in 2006. Using the attention he has received from his athletic achievements, he has focused on a philanthropic cause and pledged to help raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Cheek famously used his post-victory Olympic press conference in 2006 to pledge his winnings to the cause, rather than talk about the race he had just won.

“Joey basically made the observation that he had worked his whole life, skating in circles, to win the gold—but now what?” DiNardo said. “He talked about the need for athletes to gain perspective and work towards some good outside of their athletic arenas.”

Amherst LEADS aims to nuance the definition of the student-athlete, and this event challenged students to reflect on what they wanted their legacy to be after their remaining three years. Among many things, student-athletes should be good role models, time managers, teammates and leaders. “Caring Deeply” aimed to focus on the student-athlete as a community engager.

“We’ve prided ourselves on our statistic that 100 percent of teams participate in community engagement,” DiNardo added. “What we did that night was try to engrain that philosophy in our next wave of leaders. Leadership encompasses so much. Within LEADS, it’s easy to think about being better teammates and better captains—but we want to create better people.”

Reilly Horan ’13 is one of three Athletics Liaisons for the Center for Community Engagement.
Athletics Liaisons connect athletes and coaches to the resources of the CCE and work to
create a sustainable culture of service within the Athletics Department. 

If your team is looking for community engagement projects
contact Roshard Bryant ’13 or Irene Hickey ’13 for advice and resources.
Or, visit them at the Keefe Campus Center during their office hours (Fridays, 10 a.m. to noon).

If your team just completed a community engagement event
, contact Reilly Horan ’13
so that the campus can become more aware of what your team is doing to get involved.