Students get involved in community

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Students get involved in community

Despite a hefty workload in the classroom and in sports, many collegiate athletes have been taking time out of their schedule to reach out to needy members of their community.

Members of the Soongsil University football team volunteered to help the poor during their current winter break.

The players visited the Sadang Community Welfare Center in Sadang-dong, southern Seoul on Dec. 4 to donate 5 million won ($4,440) earned during a fund-raising event. The team sought 50,000 won donations for each goal it scored.

They also did some household chores for the elderly and provided free meals to low-income families in the area.

The football team had been discussing ways to get involved in community since last year, and when a school official suggested they find a link with the local community center, the coaching staff and the players acted on the idea immediately.

“I had no idea we had so many needy people in the neighborhoods surrounding our school,” said Ko Hyun-woo, a midfielder on the team who helped out the elderly for a day.

Said Soongsil manager Kim Kwang-soo: “Most athletes are so focused on their respective sports and training that, in many cases, they are not the most adept in social situations. Our players can take this opportunity to learn to warm-up to the elderly.”

The Korea University baseball team started a mentoring program in the second semester of last year.

Eleven members of the team majoring in physical education participated in the eight-week program. The first of its kind in Korea, it involved 34 students in need of support from nearby Gaewoon, Jongam and Wolgok middle schools.

Included in the group were students from low-income homes and those who had trouble fitting in at school.

As program organizers tell it, a student under the alias Kim Sun-ho had trouble getting along with his classmates, but said he was more confident and outgoing after participating in the program.

“It was a bit awkward at first, but the eight weeks flew by,” said Moon Sang-cheol, 20, of the Korea University baseball team. “I’ve become attached to my mentors.”

Although new to Korea, such programs are the norm in countries like the United States and Japan.

“In places like the United States and Japan, collegiate athletes partake in numerous tutoring and mentoring programs with youngsters,” said Park Jin-hoon, a professor of Physical Education at Korea University.

“For example, Waseda University is currently 10 years into its youth mentoring program.

“We also need to take the steps to include such programs as a part of our curriculum.”


By Kim Min-kyu, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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