University of Central Florida Athletes Show Off Their Mentoring Skills

The University of Central Florida (UCF) has been a devoted supporter of Junior Achievement for 20 years. For the last five years, the university has received the prestigious U.S. President's Volunteer Service Gold Award for donating more than 15,000 volunteer hours annually to Junior Achievement.

Junior Achievement of Central Florida in Orlando shared the story of this successful, ongoing collaboration. UCF students are sent to elementary and middle schools, where they teach underserved youths for the service learning component of their communication courses. By acting as role models, these students learn more about themselves and gain invaluable critical thinking, leadership and communication skills. Recently, the UCF Athletics Department created a program with Junior Achievement aimed at developing leadership skills in their student athletes. As part of the collaboration, UCF volunteers were mentored by community leaders and then served as mentors during JA in a Day. Some of the college athletes said they were nervous, scared and even "terrified" before entering the elementary school classrooms.

On May 24, 2013, nearly 20 students from UCF taught several programs including JA Our City, JA Our Region and JA Our Nation to third, fourth and fifth graders at Hidden Oaks Elementary School. JA volunteers usually receive training from a JA employee. But with the UCF Athletics partnership, groups of four to five students were matched with a business volunteer, who led them through the JA materials and shared their classroom and business experiences.

"I realize that we really are role models because [the children] look up to us and they asked us so many questions," said junior Sarah Green, who plays on the UCF women's basketball team. "[The children] were just so amazed that we are athletes and sometimes I don't think anything of it--that I'm an athlete in college. I don't think that I'm that famous, but the children think the world of us."Not only does the partnership expand JA's reach in the community, it demonstrates the organization's commitment to provide UCF--one of the largest sources of JA volunteers in Central Florida--with a flexible program designed to meet their specific needs. In the future, JA hopes to increase UCF student involvement, to help create future leaders who are ready for the classroom and the real world.

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