University of Georgia student-athletes from 12 sports traveled to Atlanta’s Drew Charter School on Wednesday as part of the “UGA Day – Learn, Play, Excel” initiative. Over 20 current and former Bulldogs as well as three head coaches spoke to and ate lunch with the school’s students in grades 2-5 during the visit.
The program included topics such as education, leadership, anti-bullying, respect for authority, and the value of participation in athletics. Coaches Mark Richt, Mark Fox, and Andy Landers led off the presentation ahead of speeches from former track & field standout Georgina Nembhard, football players Chris Burnette and Chris Conley, and All-American and Olympic gymnast Courtney Kupets.
“I’m just happy that we could spend some time with these young people today,” Richt said. “Anytime we get an opportunity like that, it’s a real blessing. The coaches and the student-athletes know what it means to the young people, but it means a lot to us too. We get something out of it as well. They see the Georgia Bulldogs on TV and they get excited about that, but we want to remind them our student-athletes have academic responsibilities that they have to take care of in order to get on the playing field. Our message to them is just to remind them to work their minds as well as their bodies, to strike a balance in what they do. They just got some good news about their school-wide test scores, so that shows they’ve been working hard in the classroom. We’re proud of them for that.”
“It means a lot – it’s a lot of fun and I feel like we get just as much out of it as the kids do,” said women’s tennis player Kate Fuller, co-president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). “You can tell that they’re excited to meet us and find out what it’s like to be a student-athlete, and we also like finding out about them. It was a great day.”
Part of an overall initiative for community outreach in the Metro Atlanta area, this marks the third straight year the UGA Athletic Association has partnered with an Atlanta school to share the message. “UGA Day – Learn, Play, Excel” was held at Miller Grove High School in Lithonia in 2011 and Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School in East Point last year.
In 2011, billboards featuring recent Georgia graduates were put up within the Metro Atlanta-area, and elementary school principals, university officials, and alumni were invited to a panel discussion at Paschal’s restaurant that focused on promoting education and the University of Georgia.