Otis Booth Foundation Gift Launches Community Outreach Program
Aug. 1, 2013
By Alexandra Bitterlin
Last spring, the USC Athletic Department received a $5 million gift from the Otis Booth Foundation to endow the department's new Community Outreach Program.
The gift provides long-term funding for the program, which supports Trojan student-athletes' volunteer efforts to engage and inspire the neighborhoods surrounding USC.
During the last three years alone, USC's 650-plus student-athletes have collectively completed more than 8,000 hours of community service, volunteering with a variety of organizations including Marathon for Kids, Swim with Mike, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, South Central Community Center, Best Buddies, and Skid Row homeless shelters, in addition to several local elementary schools.
In its first year, the program will blend new initiatives with community partnerships that have become a Trojan tradition. In addition to facilitating special projects led by student-athletes, the program will host annual events such as the Community Bowl, which focuses on elementary school beautification, and A Day in Troy, which brings over 3,000 children to campus for tours and a women's basketball game. Both events encourage local children to increase college expectations and utilize sport as an avenue for physical health.
Another major program element is The SCORE Initiative (Servicing Community through Outreach, Recreation, and Education). The initiative partners each team with a local school or community group to deliver an original four-part curriculum. The lesson is comprised of the "4 SCORE Quarters," each promoting a different area of personal well-being: academic integrity, physical health, peer relationships, and community responsibility. Ongoing partnerships between teams and local schools enable student-athletes to incorporate their personal experiences as team players and leverage the platform they have as role models, inspiring children to set and achieve goals.
"The SCORE Initiative reflects USC's passionate investment in its surrounding communities, as well as the exceptional dedication of its student-athletes, who continue to serve as positive role models while helping children realize their own potential. I am grateful to the Otis Booth Foundation for its generosity and for recognizing the importance of the university's long-standing commitment to our local neighborhoods," USC President C. L. Max Nikias said.
The Otis Booth Community Outreach Endowment will also establish the Matt Barkley Community Outreach Director, a full-time staff position that will manage, implement and grow the program for maximum impact. The position is named for the former Trojan quarterback to honor his history of philanthropic service, which included humanitarian trips to Haiti, Nigeria and South Africa, as well as his participation in numerous locally based community programs.
"I am honored that USC's new Community Service Director will carry my name," Barkley said. "Community service and my faith are very important to me. As Trojan student-athletes, we are fortunate not only for the great opportunities we have at USC, but for the opportunities we have to help those less fortunate and to share with aspiring children our stories of effort, determination and perseverance on the field and in the classroom."
Many in the Athletic Department echo this excitement. "We are honored that the board of the Otis Booth Foundation thinks highly enough of the efforts of our student-athletes that they would endow our entire community outreach program," said Athletic Director Pat Haden, holder of the Charles Griffin Cale Director of Athletics' Chair at USC. "This gift will allow us to continue our work in our surrounding community while enriching not just our neighborhood, but our student-athletes as well. We get as much as we give."
Said Palmer Murray, vice president and trustee of the Booth Foundation: "The Otis Booth Foundation is proud to support USC student-athletes in their efforts to mentor and engage elementary school children in their neighboring community. Illustrating the unique combination of outstanding academic and athletic achievement, we believe these student-athletes, serving as role models, can have a meaningful impact on the lives of many children."
As the program gets underway this season, Matt Ackels, the inaugural Community Outreach Director, will oversee the progress of these endeavors. The Booth endowment is part of USC Athletics' $300 million fundraising drive called the Heritage Initiative, which was launched on Aug. 21, 2012, and is a component of the $6 billion Campaign for the University of Southern California.