Proud to give back to community

The USC women's volleyball team visited Pio Pico Middle School as part of the SCORE Initiative. Courtesy of Emily Young

One of the greatest benefits of being a student-athlete is the ability to have an impact on the lives of young children and the opportunity to serve the greater community. Last weekend, our team partook in two great events: our USC Athletics’ SCORE Initiative and Swim With Mike.

On Friday, our team paid a visit to Pio Pico Middle School, which had recently won its district’s girls volleyball championship. The USC SCORE Program -- which stands for Serving the Community through Outreach, Recreation and Education -- pairs each of USC’s 21 varsity teams with a local elementary or middle school in order to deliver educational messages to children and to mentor students in one-on-one settings through sports.

For the educational component, our team discussed physical health, academic integrity, team building and community responsibility with the 150 children involved in the Pio Pico after-school program. We received some great questions, such as, “What do you do when a teammate isn’t playing their best?” This and many other great questions allowed us to explain the importance of teammate support and encouraging each other to play their best.

After speaking to the after-school program students, we had a chance to organize volleyball drills and games with the Pio volleyball teams. As soon as we got into the gym, the Pio Pico teams pleaded with us to play them in a match. We happily obliged and they were pretty darn good as winners of their conference!

I had a lot of fun at Pio Pico and hope we inspired their volleyball team to continue achieving both on and off the court. They all promised to work hard and to come watch us in the fall.

On Saturday, our team attended Swim With Mike, a fundraising swim-a-thon that provides scholarships to individuals who have suffered a serious accident or illness.

Swim With Mike is close to the hearts of the USC community because it originated in 1981 with USC’s very own Mike Nyeholt, a three-time All-American swimmer who was paralyzed from the chest down after a motorcycle accident. The event was originally called Swim for Mike to raise money to purchase a specially equipped van for Mike. More than $58,000 was raised that day, which exceeded the amount needed to purchase the van. Mike suggested the excess funds should be used to create the Physically-Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund at USC.

To date, Swim With Mike has expanded to different colleges and has raised more than $14 million toward providing financial resources for physically challenged students who attend college. More than 141 scholarship recipients have attended schools thanks to the thousands of volunteers, swimmers, sponsors and donors.

I’m very proud to be a part of the USC Swim With Mike community. Our team signed autographs and participated in the Trojan Athletic Senate swimming relay. More than $1 million was raised this year for the USC Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. I’ve been given so much by USC and community, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to give back and be a part of the USC community around me.