FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The NAU Athletics Department, spearheaded by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), held its Student-Athlete for a Day on Tuesday for over 200 children throughout the northern Arizona region. The important Student-Athlete for a Day returned for the first time in three years and was a fun-filled day for both the Lumberjack student-athletes and the local youth.
"It's a huge event and it takes a lot of coordination," said Assistant AD for Academics Pam Lowie. "We want to engage the community more and for SAAC as a leadership organization, this was a perfect opportunity to bring back Student-Athlete for a Day for the community. It's great for our student-athletes to see how excited the kids get being around them. Being a student-athlete, they have so many obligations that it's also nice for them to relax and hang out with the kids."
Students from Flagstaff's Kinsey Elementary School and DeMiguel Elementary School as well as from Tuba City joined student-athletes from all of NAU's athletic teams for a day in the life of a collegiate student-athlete. The local children were treated to the entire student-athlete experience including tours of NAU's student union and the Health and Learning Center in addition to visiting actual classes with the student-athletes. They also got to see the weight room and team locker rooms on the athletic side.
The day ended with an activity filled afternoon on the NAU football practice fields where the student-athletes engaged the children with games and skills training. The bond formed between the student-athletes and the children was apparent as photos were taken and shirts were autographed to remember the day.
Junior swimmer Monica Pruett and junior volleyball outside hitter Janae Vander Ploeg were among the key members of SAAC who helped revive Student-Athlete for a Day and they were happy to see their hard work pay off for everyone.
"An event like this is perfect because I'm an elementary education major and I love kids," Pruett said. "It was difficult at first because I contacted almost every elementary school in Flagstaff and (NAU President) Dr. (Rita) Cheng wanted us to reach out to the reservation. We got two schools to commit and the kids from Tuba City came out and it was great having them out here. It was a really successful day."
"There's always so much that goes into planning, but it's so rewarding," Vander Ploeg added. "It's so great for student-athletes because once we're out here playing with the little kids, we feel like kids again. It's fun to give ourselves a break as student-athletes and it's important for us to give back."