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Student athletes use organizing to go beyond service

May 10, 2010

This post was written by Dennis Donovan, national organizer for Public Achievement with the Center for Democracy and Citizenship. Each fall and spring, Dennis teaches Community Organizing for Effective Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.

This spring, students in my organizing class did more than volunteer to do a project. They used their creativity and organizing knowledge and skills to take action on an issue important to them and others –helping kids make healthy food choices.

Each semester, students in Community Organizing for Effective Public Policy learn the principles and skills of community organizing, develop an organizing plan around an issue, and then go about implementing the plan.

University of Minnesota athletes Mark Solfelt (swimming), Alli Fast and Debbie Brzozowski (rowing), Ben Pisani and Cameron White (golf), and football player Sahr Ngekia wanted to tackle the issue of unhealthy eating and childhood obesity. They called themselves Team Healthy.

After many one to one meetings and research, Team Healthy decided to create a healthy eating presentation for young teens. To get and keep the attention of teenagers, they crafted their own testimonials, and developed a short film and carnival games with food group themes.  They contacted area schools and were invited to present to four groups of students at St. Louis Park Junior High in suburban Minneapolis.

Since their presentation in St. Louis Park, more schools have contacted Team Healthy to request presentations and the Champ Life Skills Program at the University of Minnesota has invited the student athletes to work with them as they improve their Eat Smart Program.

Team Healthy’s work is more than service-–it’s an example of a citizen approach to addressing our health care crisis.

Editor’s note: By the People has featured the public work stories of several student athletes at the University of Minnesota. Check out Bringing down gangs, Role models, Student athletes work with Farmington Warrior to Citizen group, and Golfer’s drive extends to public work.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 11, 2010 7:48 am

    This is a good story. I have always thought that student-athletes, when working with young children, are able to establish themselves more quickly than others. Young children look up to these student-athletes. It’s good stuff.

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