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Pittsburgh, Emporia State and New Jersey City win NCAA community service award

Team Works honor recognizes student-athletes who give back

University of Pittsburgh student-athletes volunteering at the Spring Hill Garbage Olympics.

Student-athletes at Pittsburgh, Emporia State and New Jersey City have earned the NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition award.

NCAA Team Works, which coordinates community service efforts at NCAA championships, and Helper Helper, a volunteer management and tracking platform, launched the community service competition to recognize student-athletes who give back to their communities. The competition, which ran from January through March, is based on the number of service hours completed and the number of participating student-athletes. Helper Helper tracks the school participation data throughout the competition.

“It’s quite remarkable what these student-athletes have been able to accomplish during the pandemic conditions we’ve been faced with,” said Victor Hill, NCAA associate director, NCAA Championships Team Works . “It’s quite a testament to their character and dedication to their respective communities and the needs of others. The impact and examples they set are truly immeasurable.”  

Pittsburgh earned first place in the Division I category. During the challenge, all Pittsburgh student-athletes participated in at least one community outreach project. Outreach efforts included a virtual program with youth, COVID-19 vaccine registration programs and a breast cancer walk. Student-athletes stayed connected with local elementary students through live videoconferencing and prerecorded segments that promoted literacy and the importance of reading.

“Community service means so much more than just serving those in our community,” said Olivia Miller, a junior Pittsburgh gymnast and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Community Service Subcommittee chair. “Community service is a beautiful blend of building relationships, spreading positivity and staying connected to those around us. I feel that community service is an essential part of everyone’s experience as a student-athlete, and being able to touch the lives of those around us is so powerful.”

Director of Athletics Heather Lyke said Pittsburgh student-athletes are committed to serving their communities and supporting the city of Pittsburgh. “Our coaches, student-athletes and staff continue to make servant leadership a top priority each year, and particularly during challenging times,” she said. “It is truly an honor to be recognized by the NCAA for outstanding commitment to helping others.”

Emporia State softball chalking the sidewalks of nursing homes with inspirational messages.

Taking first-place honors in Division II was Emporia State, where student-athletes participated in nearly 800 events, completing more than 2,000 hours of community engagement. Efforts included trash cleanups, food distribution, letter writing and tutoring.

“Community service is a very important aspect of being a student-athlete because it allows us to meet and make connections with different people in Emporia,” said Cassidy Beem, a catcher on the softball team and SAAC community engagement liaison.

“It also is a chance to give back to our community,” said Mikayla Simons, SAAC member and volleyball team captain.

Kristy Bayer, deputy director of athletics, said the Emporia State athletics department makes community service “one of the foundations of student-athlete success.”
“Athletics departments are competitive by nature, so having a fun challenge like the Team Works challenge allows for our student-athletes and coaches to feed their competitive drive against our peer institutions while doing great things in our community. It is a win-win for everyone,” she said.

The Division III award went to student-athletes at New Jersey City. This is the school’s first Team Works challenge victory. Through logged hours in Helper Helper, student-athletes made a $19,000 economic impact on their community. The school was able to enlist more than half of its student-athletes in at least one event.

A socially distanced shoe donation organized by the SAAC at New Jersey City University’s John J. Moore Athletic and Fitness Center.

Senior Jonathan Andrews, a men’s volleyball student-athlete and SAAC representative, said, “To me, community service means genuinely caring and facilitating change for the people you represent. As a university, I believe we do this for the purpose of peace, the respect we have for the ones who paved the way and the betterment of the world around us. The change we’ve made through the Rising Knight Institute and as #JerseyCitysTeam in the short time I’ve been here has been incredible and is truly unlike anything I’ve been a part of.”

Shawn Tucker, associate vice president and director of athletics, said the Gothic Knight student-athletes have a “gritty yet compassionate spirit.” “To value others during a time period where many individuals’ lives were turned upside down is truly remarkable and is a testament to the character and heart behind an NJCU student-athlete,” he said.

Finishing behind Pittsburgh in the Division I competition was Louisville, the reigning Team Works champion, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Division II second- and third-place finishers were Mercy and Belmont Abbey, respectively. Alma and Shenandoah rounded out the Division III second- and third-place spots.

The student-athletes at Pittsburgh, Emporia State and New Jersey City will all receive an award from the NCAA and Helper Helper. This is the eighth NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition powered by Helper Helper.