PORT ARTHUR – On its face, the photo of Evan White illustrates little more than a momentary interaction with a small child. In the scope of Lamar State College-Port Arthur’s education plan for its athletes, the image stands for so much more.
White, a sophomore basketball player, has been featured on the cover of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s “Review” magazine. The November issue features various stories of community service undertaken by two-year colleges from across the U.S. The NJCAA represents 525 schools and 28 different sports.
Because of its intrinsic appeal, the image featuring White and a small boy during a YMCA basketball camp invites the viewer to see more than just another athlete on the court of play, explained Seahawks head basketball coach Lance Madison.
“We take great pride in our character-building initiatives and giving back to the community,” Madison said. “The goal is to improve our athletes on every level, from athletic to academic and in their character as members of their community.”
The men’s basketball team won the college’s Community Service Award for the 2012-13 season after a long-standing stronghold on that accomplishment by the softball team. Between the two programs, the athletic department is represented across the region in community, religious and athletic events outside the realm of the Seahawks’ usual on-court presence.
“The first time they go out, they often wonder why they have to do things like that. The second time, they’re thinking that it’s not so bad. After that, they’re wondering, ‘When do we get to go again?’” Athletic Director Scott Street said. “What we’re trying to do is instill a sense of volunteerism and mentorship that starts now and will last a lifetime.”
The basketball team undertook dozens of community service projects this past year where athletes initiated community contact through Southeast Texas high schools, regional service organizations like Rotary, YMCA and Sertoma, as well as on-campus groups like Phi Theta Kappa, Student Government Association and the Seahawks Athletics Club.
The men’s basketball team was twice featured on the NJCAA national website for its participation in the “Coaches vs. Cancer” program and the “Handshakes for Milkshakes” sportsmanship initiative.
The women’s softball team has been busy lately with a session of boxing Thanksgiving meals as part of the Port Arthur Rotary Club seasonal project, while players also spent time as servers at Magnolia Manor Care Center’s annual Thanksgiving meal for residents and their families. The Seahawks also teamed up with Lamar University’s softball team to collect $9,000 for breast cancer research, presenting the check to the Gift of Life organization during an exhibition game in Beaumont.
“When our athletes participate in community service projects, it impacts them on so many levels,” softball coach Vance Edwards said. “There is a level of cooperation and citizenship our athletes take away from these projects. They are exposed to diversity and different ways of thinking. The feeling of accomplishment and giving to others is unparalleled to anything you can offer in the classroom.”