Culture Of Community Service Continues
BERKELEY – A shared screen during a recent team Zoom meeting showed a long list of community service organizations each of Cal's 36 lacrosse student-athletes could choose to help. It was not optional.
"We strive for 100% participation," Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks said. "Community service is an essential part of being a student-athlete. It is important to use your platform to serve others and create awareness. We treat community service just like we treat the development of our lacrosse skills. Progress is the key, and we continue to develop and grow our involvement from year to year."
One of the ways the team plans to increase its participation this year is by creating a student-athlete led committee for each of the organizations listed in the recent Zoom meeting. In addition to doing the community service work, the team plans to publicize its efforts primarily through social media in an effort to bring about awareness of the organizations and increase the community service level of others.
"Our program has become more and more invested in community outreach throughout the years," said Caroline Corzel, who spent four seasons as a Cal lacrosse student-athlete from 2016-19 before returning in August as an assistant coach. "It is our duty to use our platform to reach not only Bay Area organizations but those from around the country."
The number of organizations Cal has worked with has increased significantly since Eubanks' arrival in the fall of 2014. The current list includes HEADstrong, One Love, Morgan's Message, Racial Justice Council and GoBearsGoVote. The topics the organizations deal with are cancer, domestic violence and healthy relationships, mental health, suicide, racial injustice and voter registration.
"It's super important that Cal lacrosse is involved in community outreach," fifth-year senior Ella Annest said. "We are in a huge place of privilege and influence, and it's our responsibility to use those in a way to support others. There are so many organizations around us that are doing great things in the community and when they succeed, we all do."
"I believe our community outreach is not only important to our team but to our Berkeley community," senior Ashley Ward added. "It helps to spread awareness about issues we have connections to. From mental health to social injustice, we all have experience in what we promote. We believe in these causes, and how they can help others in the community."
One cause that senior Cameron Gordon certainly believes in and wanted to act on was helping Black Lives Matter increase awareness and end the police brutality that Black men and women have faced throughout our country's history. Gordon was inspired to act after the killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer in May. She rounded up members of the Cal lacrosse team to take part in an activity where collegiate student-athletes from different schools across the country walked, ran, biked and/or swam 8.46 miles to symbolize the reported eight minutes, 46 seconds that officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck during the fatal incident.
"I thought it would be something our entire team would be super interested in for a number of reasons," Gordon said. "It was something where we could all come together virtually and join a lot of other collegiate student-athletes to use our talent, skills, athleticism and platform to make a difference."
Several GoFundMe pages related to the event raised around $130,000 for Black Lives Matter, of which Gordon estimates about $3,000 came from the funds generated by Cal lacrosse.
"Even if it was small in terms of the financial impact, I feel like we made quite a difference," Gordon said.
Two other members of the team – senior Nikki Zaccaro and true freshman Kennedy Goss – are looking to continue making a difference in a related area as part of Cal's newly-formed Racial Justice Council, which was born during a women's basketball team meeting shortly after Floyd was killed.
"I am fortunate to be involved with the Racial Justice Council," Goss said. "I believe the community's effort to raise awareness of racial injustice and form discussions to decrease wrongful acts based on race in the future will not only bring understanding but develop a strong connectivity within Cal's athletic community. With the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, it is something I feel is important to be a part of."
"Having our student-athletes choose community service projects they are passionate about gives both them and our program the opportunity to support many organizations locally and nationally," assistant coach Denise Wescott added.
"While working in their committees, they also learn skills that will help them with their professional careers, and often broaden their awareness, while exposing them to many different cultures and causes that help them grow as human beings."
A relatively new project that several lacrosse student-athletes are currently investing lots of time and energy into is leading the GoBearsGoVote initiative on the Cal campus leading up to the upcoming November 3 election. The initiative was started in an effort to raise voter registration and encourage people to vote, and the group is currently making presentations to as many of Cal's 30 intercollegiate athletic teams as possible to educate and encourage those student-athletes and get them to join the movement.
"Being a part of Cal lacrosse is so much more than just a sport," said junior Catherine Roxas, who has a leading role in the GoBearsGoVote initiative. "Our coaches allocate a great amount of time and resources to community service, and they allow us to be productive members of our community outside of lacrosse. I feel so lucky to be part of a program that encourages us to give back."
"I've been so impressed with the community outreach our team has been doing and am so excited to take part," true freshman Simone Holland added. "I picked Cal because of its history in activism and peaceful protests, and I'm so happy to get to add to the legacy."