Nine women’s basketball team members visited New Era middle school in South Baltimore to play ball with students in the Higher Achievement program. This is the second summer the Retrievers have spent time with Higher Achievement students. Andi Goodwin, a Higher Achievement mentor and academic advisor at UMBC, forged the connection, which is a powerful example of UMBC’s commitment to community partnerships.
Warren Wiggins, manager of instruction for Higher Achievement at New Era, says that when UMBC visits, the middle schoolers “get excited about college. They learn that student-athletes are students first.”
The benefits go both ways. Working with younger students encourages the athletes to “step outside of themselves for a moment,” says Goodwin. “It affords them a chance to see what doors their talent opens up for them.”
During a question and answer session after drills and a scrimmage, the youngsters quizzed the UMBC players about college life as varsity athletes. “It’s one thing to play basketball with them,” says point guard Emily Russo ’17, biology, “but we’re more than just basketball players.” She hopes she and her teammates made that clear to their new mentees.
“I feel like you build a relationship,” says power forward Pandora Wilson ’17, health administration and public policy. “If they’re listening, they’re applying what they’ve learned here and maybe they’re taking away something that’s more than just the usual words.”
The New Era principal has invited the UMBC team return this fall to meet with the school’s basketball team—a request they’ll happily oblige.
UMBC participating teammates: Laura Castaldo, Chukwuma Chiamaka, Amanda Hagaman, Kayla Hinderlie, Allison McGrath, Tyler Moore, Te’yJah Oliver, Emily Russo, Pandora Wilson
Learn more in The Baltimore Sun: UMBC women’s basketball players share more than their sport
Image: UMBC women’s basketball players practice with middle school students in the Higher Achievement program at New Era Middle School; photo UMBC Athletics.