SAAC in ACCtion: Giving Back

Feb. 24, 2010

At first, all Rider Clauss wanted to do was graduate from Virginia Tech with an engineering degree while running for the cross country and track teams. However, his experiences at Tech while running and being a member of SAAC led him wanting so much more. This need would lead him to some jobs that few of his other classmates would have, but jobs that would allow him to give back in a satisfying way.

Rider ran for Tech all four years while earning his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. He regionally qualified twice in the 3000 meter steeplechase and joined the All-ACC Academic Team in 2006. During his time at Virginia Tech, he also participated in SAAC, often volunteering in many of the SAAC-hosted events while also encouraging his teammates to participate.

When Rider graduated in 2008, most of his classmates started to look for the job that would make them millionaires. Rider looked for a job of a different kind, and found one in volunteering for AmeriCorps, specifically for Habitat for Humanity. Working for Habitat was just the right fit for Rider, who was looking for something that would keep him outdoors and also allow him to observe the change he was making in the community through being a volunteer. Plus he was working construction, which tied into his engineering background at Virginia Tech. He moved to Seattle, Wash. and started working alongside other volunteers from all over the country, including graduates from Virginia and North Carolina. Being a student-athlete at Virginia Tech prepared Rider to be able to work well as a team with his fellow AmeriCorps members, including graduates of other ACC schools!

Rider would need the experience he gained while being a student-athlete.

When asked specifically how his involvement as a student-athlete has prepared him for his career, Clauss stated, “Training and instructing groups of volunteers everyday can be stressful. I often had high powered executives from major corporations such as Microsoft and Boeing working with me, which made the job even a little more stressful. Being a student-athlete helped me develop the leadership qualities that I relied on heavily while working for Habitat for Humanity.”

He would often have to supervise a group of five or more people in activities such as putting up siding, laying tiles, or installing windows; all skills that he had only learned how to do the day before. In the ten and a half months Rider worked for AmeriCorps, he completed eleven houses. “It was very rewarding to see eleven wonderful and deserving families able to move into brand new homes due, in part, to my contributions,” said Clauss.

Today Rider is in Paju, South Korea teaching elementary school age children how to speak English. He teaches kids ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade, meeting with each grade around three times each week. He teaches the entire course by himself, with only a translator there for discipline purposes, and keeps a more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom than most Korean classes. He said that while being a student-athlete at Tech, he had to make certain sacrifices, one of which was not studying abroad. Rider feels that being in Korea now is making up for that lost opportunity adding, “I expected to like teaching and was pretty sure I would enjoy my job here, but I mostly just wanted the opportunity to experience life in a different country for a while. From that standpoint, my time in Korea has been very successful.”

So far Rider has really enjoyed the life he’s been leading after college, even though he may not be making the same amount of money his classmates from Virginia Tech are making. But to Rider life has never been about making as much money as possible. It’s always been about giving back to his community, whether that be at Virginia Tech, Seattle, or even in Korea.