Student-Athletes Contribute to Community Through Service
Members of SAAC volunteer with children and raise funds for families in need
In the University of Idaho’s Athletics Department, student-athletes are working hard year round. They train their bodies physically in order to excel in the game, and they train their minds to excel in the classroom.
They’re also training themselves to be good citizens and breaking down stereotypes about athletes through volunteerism and outreach with UI’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
“People don’t know us unless we get out there and meet with the community,” said UI senior Reagan Quigley, president of SAAC, who will graduate with a business degree this spring. Quigley was a forward on UI’s women’s soccer team, which won the regular-season Big Sky championship last fall.
SAAC was created by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) to give student-athletes a voice within the NCAA structure. Its mission also includes organizing community service efforts and promoting a positive image of student-athletes. UI has about 45 student-athletes involved in SAAC this year.
“We really want to make student-athletes the best people they can be after college,” Quigley said.
UI SAAC places community service on the top of its priority list. At Christmas, the club teamed up with Washington State SAAC to raise $2,352 to purchase gifts for area families. This year, members participated in the Palouse Cares Food Drive, the It's on Us campaign to end sexual assault on campus, and the Trick or Treat at the Dome event. They also visit local elementary schools and read to the students.
“To the elementary kids, we are almost heroes, and we don’t even realize that,” Quigley said. “It is really touching to everybody to go into the elementary schools because you can see how much of an influence you have on them.”
To extend this influence, UI SAAC started a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Southwest Region when they were part of the WAC, and it still exists today. UI student-athletes wrote letters, held conference calls, and Skyped with Boys and Girls Clubs in Nevada to serve as positive role models for underprivileged children, encourage them to pursue higher education, and use athletics as a tool for physical and mental health.
This spring, UI SAAC partnered with elementary schools around Moscow for the Safe Routes to School Polar Walk.
Quigley hopes that with every contact SAAC members make, they can inspire students to achieve a college education.
These community service efforts haven’t just helped the community. The student-athletes also gain a community cheering section and real-world experience that goes beyond the playing field, Quigley said.
Quigley encourages all student-athletes to participate in SAAC.
“As student-athletes, there isn't much time for extracurricular activities, but SAAC fits into their schedules. There are opportunities for leadership just because of the breadth of opportunity within SAAC,” she said. “And it changes you as a person. Being in contact with the things that we do, like Christmas for Kids, you realize how fortunate you are, being in the position that you are in."
Article by Cara Hawkins-Jedlicka, College of Law