Pioneer student-athletes lend a hand at the Sorensdale Community Center in Hayward.
Though the 2011-12 season is over, members of the Cal State East Bay Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) showed some muscle recently by participating in a community service project at Sorensdale Park in Hayward. A group of 10 Pioneer student-athletes lent a hand with garden work at the Park while interacting with community members as they gave back to the Hayward area.
Near Tennyson High School, Sorensdale Park is home to the Sorensdale Recreation Center for the Disabled in addition to soccer and ball fields, basketball courts and picnic areas. The recreation center serves as a hub for programs for developmentally disabled members of the Hayward community, including activities for special needs youth.
Pioneer student-athletes Tenaya Davis, Paul Dewhurst, Kitona Offord, Morgan Hirzel, Kenneth Farr II, Julia Charlesworth, Mary Reardon, Ariana Gordon, Jaime Botteon and Arthur Ethel all chipped in to help with the May 25 beautification project in the garden at the recreation center. The group took advantage of the good weather to pull weeds, relocate soil and transport and pot plants to help improve the overall appearance of the garden.
In addition, the student-athletes had the opportunity to meet, talk to and enjoy the company of some of the special needs students who benefit from the garden. Throughout the day, the group got a chance to work hard, listen to music, benefit from the smiles of the students and form a connection with their fellow Pioneers.
“The students’ smiles and genuine happiness made it a positive environment,” Davis said. “On a sunny day with music playing in the background and an upbeat atmosphere, it was more than just community service, it was a bonding experience. We were listening to music, dancing while cleaning, and having a really fun time!”
For some of the student-athletes, the activity marked their first time interacting with individuals with special needs, giving them a new perspective and a desire to continue the work.
“This was my first time interacting with disabled people, and it was a great experience,” Farr said. “Everyone should spend more time with those with special needs, because they liked having us there, and we really enjoyed interacting with them. People don’t realize how great an experience something may be until they give it a chance. As someone who doesn’t often give new things a chance, I can say that this was a great experience, and I encourage others to participate in activities like this one.”
Last month’s gardening activity is just one of many community service and engagement projects which SAAC organizes each year. During the 2011-12 campaign, the Pioneers volunteered at the Hayward Downtown Street Parties, the Gates Millennium Scholars Bridge Builders Forum, Centerville Junior High’s Family Fun Fitness Night and the Cal State East Bay Education Summit. Student-athletes also encouraged young readers through the Read with the Pioneers Program, organized a Family Skate Night and raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation at the Swim for Wishes and the Homecoming Rally.