Society often stereotypes football players as inconsiderate jocks, yet a group of Occidental College football players are flouting this label through their work with Great Strides, a club on campus that serves as an after-school program for Garvanza Elementary School.
Every Friday, students from the club visit with children from fourth to sixth grade every Friday to teach them healthy dietary habits and fitness. A majority of the participants are Occidental football players.
Leading the club is running back Kwame Do (junior), who took up the position this year after the heads Lindsay Albino, Morgan McClafferty and Geneva Perez graduated last year.
“I do it for the kids and their parents—the kids love it,” Do said. “The parents are super grateful and the school is very appreciative.”
The program’s success speaks for itself: it has a wait-list of approximately 30 children who want to participate. Do tells of the children’s excitement about the program as those on the wait-list stand at the playground gate, shouting his name until he lets them in.
Nick McHugh (senior) has been a participant for the last two years and remarked on Kwame’s success leading the program.
“I’m really happy it’s fallen into the lap of Kwame and the football team,” McHugh said. “There’s continuity now with members of football and OMA going. We can pretty much ensure each year there will be a younger generation to continue the tradition.”
McHugh and Do both spoke to the importance of having a core group of students return each week. Do states that when students do not visit consistently, the children will ask for them and express disappointment.
With approximately 60 children in the program and only a handful of Occidental students supervising, Do is limited to the amount of children he can admit. Niko Lachman (sophomore), who joined Great Strides this year, further explains the need for more volunteers.
“As of now the kids run around playing in bushes and with cones, but if we had more organization and volunteers we could get a soccer or football game going which would be more beneficial for them,” Lachman said.
According to the club members, many students are hesitant to commit to the program because visits occur on Friday afternoons from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Students appear to be less than willing to spend this time on Friday volunteering with these children, despite Do’s efforts each week roaming the quad for volunteers. However, there are a handful of students, like Lachman, who enjoy spending their afternoons with the program.
“I always want to do something to be helping the community, but as a physics major I don’t have much time,” Lachman said. “All the kids are always super excited when we get there and it’s rewarding—it makes it much easier to give up your Friday afternoon.”
Not only does Do have to work to keep up the numbers of volunteers each week, but the club stacks up against schoolwork and football as well.
“It’s a lot more time consuming than I thought and more stressful at times,” Do said. “Being in charge has been a little bit of a hassle, but I get great support from the football players.”
The club’s success and the feeling of accomplishment is present on each club member’s grinning face when talking about the children and the work they do with Great Strides. Once a week for a few hours may seem to be a short amount of time to some people, yet to the children and these Occidental athletes, it has great impact.
According to Do, the club would benefit from more volunteers. Students interested in volunteering with Great Strides can contact Do at firstname.lastname@example.org.