Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
While the college sports landscape was abuzz on Saturday with conference championship games and potential BCS bowl berths, 150 student-athletes representing 11 of USC's varsity sports came together to participate in the inaugural Community Bowl.
Put on by the Trojan Athletics Parents Association (TAPA), the student-athletes, parent volunteers and members of the community sacrificed their Saturdays for a day of service at Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School (one of USC's Family of Schools).
"This school is right across the street from USC and these kids probably see us walking to school every day," junior quarterback Matt Barkley said. "So, to interact with them, to serve them and to be a part of the first Community Bowl is pretty neat. This is what USC does. We have been given so much as student-athletes to be able to go to USC, so this is the perfect opportunity to give back."
Despite their busy academic and athletic schedules, Steven Shandrick, co-president of the Trojan Athletic Senate (TAS) and member of the USC men's volleyball team, said selling a day of service to the student-athletes was an easy task.
"It wasn't a hard pitch to sell at all," said Shandrick. "There were a lot of athletes who wanted to donate their time on a Saturday to come here and clean up the school and give back to these kids. It's a small amount of our time, but the reward for these kids and the payoff is so immense."
From reading to repainting the outside of the school to collaborating on an intricate mural to playing kickball out in the schoolyard, the Community Bowl was a day-long celebration of academics, athletics, art and community activism.
"I want our children to know that college is an option," said Weemes' principal Lynn Brown. "USC is one of the major universities in the country and we can walk to it. So for them to make that connection with USC student-athletes today was just exciting to see."
Although the students of Weemes Elementary got to spend a day with some of the finest student-athletes in the country - in both an academic and athletic setting - the experience may have been just as worthwhile for the wide-eyed Trojans.
"A day like this is just as powerful for our student-athletes as it is for these elementary school kids, " said Scott Jacobson, assistant athletic director. "It's been amazing to see this come to fruition because it speaks volumes about our student-athletes, that they understand what it means not only to be an athlete, not only what it means to be a student, but what it means to be a student-athlete at USC and in a community like this."
While the first ever Community Bowl certainly lends credence to the USC athletic program's tradition of giving back to the Los Angeles community, several student-athletes want to build on the momentum created by Saturday's service day as soon as possible.
"I think we should do this a lot more during the semester," said sophomore Sophia Popov of the USC women's golf team. "It's nice to spend a whole day on a Saturday out here, but I'd love to do this way more often. Just to be able to help out there kids, and to show them what their lives can be in the future is very rewarding."
(Photos by John McGillen)