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Ready, Set, Serve

Water polo's Will  Matison helps Kettering Elementary School students Garott Reents and Chloe Hetland with reading.

The notion that privilege comes with responsibility definitely applies to CSULB student-athletes.

For the honor of being provided the opportunity to earn a university degree and to represent Long Beach State in sports, they are expected to return the favor by performing service to the campus and community.

That’s why CSULB’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) elects one of its members to serve as the community service representative to coordinate team service activities. This year, it’s track and field heptathlete Wendy Izquierdo, a senior human development major whose goal is to continue into a master’s degree in psychology and a career either in sports or child psychology.

“My family has been involved in community service projects since I was little, so I decided that being the SAAC service rep would be a great way to give back to the Long Beach community” said Izquierdo, who came to Long Beach State from Fresno.

One of her responsibilities is coordinating Long Beach State’s participation in the annual Big West Conference coin drive held in February, where all Big West campuses vie for earning the most donations by asking game audiences to donate to a charity selected by that campus.

Basketball sophmore Devin Hudson meets with a young patient at Miller Children's Hospital.

“We get to decide if it’s going to be a local charity or Southern California or national, but we as athletes get to choose who to fundraise for. Last year it was Read Across America for books for kids,” Izquierdo said. In past years, Long Beach State also supported Free Wheelchair Mission, Meals on Wheels and breast cancer research.

“We ask people who are at our events if they would like to donate their coins. Sometimes we get $20 bills and I get all excited,” she said. “It’s just going out there and having a good time and explaining to everyone what we’re doing and what the money is going toward.”

Long Beach State teams are expected to take part in at least one major event each year. They meet young patients at the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital, help out at the Special Olympics and cheer on the participants at the Long Beach Marathon. One of the most impactful to the campus community is helping students move into the residence halls.

Maureen Mckenzie signs a post-game autograph after her soccer match.

Maureen Mckenzie signs a post-game autograph after her soccer match. Photo courtesy of LBSU Athletics

Teams and individual athletes also take part in a variety of other events throughout the academic year, said Candice Chick Shirey, coordinator of the Division of Student Services’ CHAMPS/Life Skills program and the SAAC. “In the past, we implemented a mentoring program at Kettering School where student-athletes partner with teachers for the semester and help out in class for one or two hours a week. They’ve helped with special education, the sciences, English and other subject areas,” Shirey said.

A new project partners 49er men’s and women’s teams with the Long Beach Parks and Recreation Department to hold sports clinics. “It’s a way for Long Beach State athletes to help the city while promoting the LBSU athletic program, and it gives neighborhood kids the chance to meet the local college teams,” Shirey said.

Although Izquierdo must focus on her degree first, then train and compete in the seven heptathlon sports, she embraces her service responsibilities. “I think it’s a good thing for student athletes to get back out there and give back to our community because the community comes to our events and games and supports us. We’re actually trying to collaborate with the CSULB Greek life and read to kids in elementary schools. We go to the elementary schools here in Long Beach and have fun with them; we dance and run relays. I think that’s super fun.”

Anne Ambrose