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Fighting Irish have made a difference through mentoring program for 25 South Bend youth
GREENSBORO, NC – Members of the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team have been recognized as Atlantic Coast Conference/United Way “Game Changers” and will be honored during the 2015 New York Life ACC Tournament.
The “Game Changers” initiative was introduced this year as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s unique and longstanding partnership with United Way. It seeks to recognize and highlight specific ACC team involvement with its local United Way chapter.
“As we enter the 20th year of our league’s partnership with United Way, we wanted to further recognize our member institutions’ continued community service efforts,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “Notre Dame’s partnership is certainly game changing for the youth they work with, and I commend their dedication.”
The Fighting Irish continued a mentoring program during the 2013-14 academic year, partnering with 25 male students at the South Bend Community School Corporation’s Dickinson Fine Arts Academy (DFAA). The 7th and 8th grade boys were selected by the school’s administrators and teachers with the hope that additional positive role models would improve the students’ aspirations, resiliency and school performance.
One morning a week during the 2013 fall semester, members of the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse program traveled together as a team to meet with the DFAA students. The Fighting Irish student-athletes engaged the DFAA students in activities that centered on sportsmanship, critical thinking skills and self-motivation.
During the 2014 spring semester, the Fighting Irish welcomed the DFAA students to the Notre Dame campus. The 7th and 8th graders dined with the lacrosse players, observed practices and cheered on the Irish at a home game.
End-of-the-school-year surveys among the DFAA youth who took part in the program indicated that they indeed developed higher aspirations for their collective futures. Also, improvements were demonstrated in personal and social competencies – key factors of childhood resiliency.
“If you live in poverty, your world is much more narrow than a middle-class family’s might be,” said Karen Sommers, vice president for community investment with the United Way of St. Joseph County. “So by showing other possibilities and for them to just have those experiences, often that is a game-changer in and of itself. This program is giving them a chance to expand their horizons, develop goals and actually achieve those goals.”
The Notre Dame student-athletes also benefitted. The men’s lacrosse coaching staff felt the regular service activity was a significant factor in building cohesion among the team and helped the Fighting Irish to an ACC championship, in addition to fulfilling a key pillar of undergraduate education at the University of Notre Dame.
“We’re really not interested in punching the clock here and then walking out and patting ourselves on the back,” said Kevin Corrigan, the Irish men’s lacrosse team’s head coach. “We’re engaged in an ongoing effort, and it’s not headline-grabbing, but it’s significant to everyone involved.”