Clarksville, TN – On Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, the Austin Peay State University’s athletics department, the Office of Sustainability within the APSU Physical Plant, the Clarksville Housing Authority and the APSU football team came together to pick up litter and spend time with children at Lincoln Homes.
There had been an effort by Ryan Combs – Academic Coordinator for APSU Athletics – to set up an event at Lincoln Homes for some time.
When the football program came to him seeking an opportunity to make a positive impact in the community, he reached out to Shanale Allen, resident service coordinator with the Clarksville Housing Authority, to make it happen.
“It’s something our director, Patricia Tyus, very strongly believes in and that’s community revitalization as part of our mission,” Allen said. “Ryan Combs gave me a call. He’s been trying to get us to connect – Lincoln Homes and the athletics department – for these types of activities like clean up and just being out socializing with the kids.”
Haley Randell, the sustainability coordinator for the APSU Physical Plant, has been working to schedule monthly trash pick-ups on and around the Austin Peay State University campus. When she heard the entire football team would be participating, she looked off campus for the team to have the greatest effect.
“I’ve started planning monthly trash clean ups around campus, but once we realized it would be the whole football team, we felt it would make a more meaningful impact if we went out into the community,” Randell said. “Lincoln Homes is right next door, so it just kind of organically happened.
“As the sustainability coordinator, waste is a big part of (the job): recycling and reducing the amount waste we’re putting into the landfill. You can see trash is on the ground in a lot of places, so getting it off the ground into the landfill or the incinerator is one step to eliminating it from our oceans, our waterways, our drinking water.”
The afternoon started when Allen, other members of her staff and about 15 kids came over to Fortera Stadium to meet with the student-athletes. The team broke into eight groups – their Dream Teams – and received a specific area they would canvass for picking up litter.
A couple of the kids from Lincoln Homes joined each group of players, who were distributed trash bags, gloves and maps with the areas they were set to clean up. After a short walk, the Govs set into the neighborhood and began their work.
Once each of the Dream Teams had walked its entire area, they met at the park where the played basketball, threw footballs and played on the playground equipment with the kids who came out to help.
For senior linebacker Pat Walker – who made a new friend that sat atop his shoulders most of the afternoon – and his teammates, it turned out to be a special afternoon in the community.
“It’s fun giving back to the community and hanging out with my teammates and just getting out and doing something different,” Walker said. “I think it’s fun for the community. You see people sitting outside watching us play. It’s a break for us and it’s pretty fun.”
The student-athletes, along with Randell, the Housing Authority Staff and APSU Athletics staff picked up between 20 and 30 large garbage bags worth of litter and enjoyed a day of play with the kids in the community, but Allen knows the impact of the team’s presence runs deeper than that.
“I think it’s just showing that college is attainable,” Allen said. “People that go to college look just like you, they come from where you come from – there’s not a difference. These young people on the football team, as well as our youth, they’re making a great connection because at the end of the day, it’s all about us being human and making connections and I think it’s just phenomenal.
“I think the kids will definitely understand that there’s an opportunity in athletics and sports and college, and it’s attainable.”