COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For the past two years, the Tennessee Tech soccer team has been heavily involved and dedicated in the Cookeville community, working at a number of events and providing several volunteer efforts toward community service.
One of those has been the continued involvement at Parkview Elementary School. Since the arrival of third-year head coach Daniel Brizard, the Golden Eagles have made a special commitment to Parkview. Tech soccer players visit the school several times a week during the preseason, then spend several hours in their assigned classrooms each week for the remainder of the school year.
"We decided to go and help lon- term because I felt that it was too easy to just go and read for a period or have lunch with the kids," said Brizard. "Don't get me wrong, I think that's great and really makes a difference. But I feel in order to affect lives, you need to do it on a regular basis and get to know the kids."
The soccer team's service at Parkview, which is in its third straight year, has provided a great deal of help for the teachers and other faculty at the elementary school. Tasks range anywhere from grading papers and making cutouts for projects to listening to the children while they read and assist them in learning mathematics.
No matter what the task, the Golden Eagles know that what they do is invaluable to the teachers and that is what makes the service so much easier.
"I think it's made a big impact on the school and they love having us," said senior forward Andrea Meloff. "They always have stuff ready for us to do when we come in and they always love to see us. When we walk in the doors, all of the kids get really excited. The teachers love it because it makes their lives a little easier every day."
"Even when they just go and help the teachers it has an impact," said Brizard. "The teachers need as much help as they can get nowadays as far the kids, the workload, and the resources they are not given go."
The volunteer work doesn't just have an effect on the teachers though. The girls provide a strong impact on the student's lives. Over the previous three years, the girls have landed a special place in the hearts of the students, so much so that more than once, the children will inquire as to where the girls are during the lunch hour.
"Some of our girls go into the classrooms now," said Brizard, "and the kids will run up and give them hugs because they know who they are. I think that creates a special bond and something just at a different level then going once or twice."
Prior to the start of their own academic year, the team travels to Parkview as a unit for an introduction and their first service sessions. When Tech is in session, the players settle into an individual schedule of when they spend their time at the elementary school.
Even the school's principal, Bobby Winningham, has taken notice of the impact that the girls make on his school. He realizes that the continued efforts of the Golden Eagles have paid dividends and that the girls have made an invaluable difference to the children of Parkview.
“For our students, the girls do a wonderful job,” said Winningham. “They provide us a very valuable service by coming over here and helping out. Both our students and teachers look forward to the days they come in. They have meant a lot to us these past few years and it’s nice to have them always come in with smiling faces. I can honestly say we would be lacking if they weren’t here to help us as it frees us up to do other things for the school and students.”
"I think the results have been fantastic and I believe we have a great group of positive role models," said Brizard. "If we can get in there over the course of one semester and help even just one kid read better or do math better, then I feel we have made a difference. That kind of impact just takes a long-term approach and that's why we decided to make this an ongoing event for the team."