RIC student-athletes on top of their game when it comes community service

The successes of Rhode Island College student-athletes and teams have been well documented in recent years. The Anchormen and Anchorwomen have captured numerous conference championships and received many individual accolades, culminating in RIC finishing in the top 25 percent of all Division III institutions in the annual United States Sports Academy Directors’ Cup standings.

Don Tencher
RIC is also known for its student-athlete academic support programs and its involvement in the nationally renowned Choices Program. However, one key piece to the total student-athlete development package has flown under the radar, but is just as important to their success as getting a key hit or posting an “A” on an exam.

In spring 1995, Don Tencher, director of athletics at RIC, ushered in a new era of success for the athletic program, with one of his first priorities being to upgrade the college’s Student-Athlete Community Service Program.

“In order to build our programs up to a championship level, we needed to give our student-athletes a solid base,” Tencher said. “Obviously having a sound academic support program is very important, as is having great coaches and facilities, but we wanted our student-athletes to be known for more than what they do on the field and in the classroom.”

Since those early beginnings, thousands of RIC student-athletes have volunteered their time on and off campus, which has benefitted numerous organizations.

Members of the RIC men's tennis team paint the North Providence Tri-Town Center gym.
In 2010-11, student-athletes from each of RIC’s 19 varsity sports have been volunteering at North Providence’s Tri-Town Center.

Formerly the Boys and Girls Club of North Providence, the center is being re-opened by Tri-Town Community Action Agencies with the intent of providing a valuable resource in the community, focusing on after school programs for youth, which include several basketball and soccer leagues.

“Without the assistance of volunteer groups, like the RIC student-athletes, the community center project would not succeed or materialize,” said Joe DeSantis, CEO of Tri-Town Community Action Agencies. “They have been invaluable with getting this project off the ground. We look forward to their continued support.”

Since the fall, the Anchormen and Anchorwomen have been assisting in the renovations, performing such tasks as landscaping, moving furniture, painting and general cleaning.

“It is important that our student-athletes give back to the community,” said G. Gail Davis, RIC’s director of student-athlete support who coordinates the community service events. “It makes them aware of what is happening in the community. I think they are better people after they take part in efforts like this. They all work together as a team to help other people, which is just as an important as working together on the field or on the court.”

The previous two years, student-athletes worked at Dorcas Place, an adult and family learning center for low-income Rhode Islanders on Elmwood Ave. in Providence. They helped sort clothing for the organization’s “Dress for Success” program, as well as cleaning and providing maintenance functions. In 2009, Dorcas Place honored RIC student-athletes with its prestigious Community Service Award.

RIC has also had a long-standing relationship with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. For over 10 years, RIC student-athletes assisted in sorting the donations that were delivered to the center to make them easier to distribute to people in need.

During the holidays, the Anchormen and Anchorwomen held toy drives for Toys for Tots and assembled Thanksgiving food baskets.

Several members of the RIC wrestling
team help with the college's Green-up,
Clean-up Day last September.
RIC teams have also taken part in numerous campus programs. This past fall, student-athletes took part in Green-Up, Clean-Up Day, a campus beautification project, by cleaning up debris and planting trees. Student-athletes also played a key role, in President Carriuolo’s inauguration in 2008, serving as honor guard.

“Participating in Community Service allows them to see the positive impact they can have on others and their communities,” said Maria Morin, head softball coach. “It's a chance for our student-athletes to learn what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves as they make a connection and relationships within their community.”

One of the more heartwarming stories came in April 2009 when the men’s basketball team, fresh off their third straight NCAA appearance, took part in WJAR-10’s “Tuesday’s Child” segment with a 12-year old boy who later was adopted after the show aired.

“Our kids got so much out of the ‘Tuesday’s Child’ experience because they realized how fortunate they were to have loving families and have been given an opportunity to get a college education and play basketball,” said Bob Walsh, RIC men’s basketball head coach. “It showed them that there were plenty of people who looked up to them, and that maybe they don’t have much to complain about.“

As RIC’s teams continue to make an impact on the national stage, community involvement on the local level will help those close to home in the greater Providence area.

Student-athletes are currently involved in helping local cancer research with their Anchor Strong bracelet drive. All proceeds will assist programs at Miriam Hospital in Providence.

“Rhode Island is our home,” Tencher said, “and we are committed to helping others in need. Our student-athletes are primarily known for what they do in the competition arena, but they are just as accomplished for what they do for the community when the spotlight isn’t on them.”