Winona State University football player Obed Jean-Baptiste admits it can be difficult when his alarm goes off an hour earlier than usual on a morning he’s scheduled to volunteer at a local elementary school or community event.
But Jean-Baptiste, a junior nursing major from Spring Valley, N.Y., is happy to tackle the challenge. As vice president of the Winona State Football Leadership Council, which organizes the team’s community service activities, he said it’s important to find time to give back.
“Maybe you’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. all week for practice and you want to sleep in, but you get up early again on Saturday to go out and volunteer somewhere,” Jean-Baptiste said. “You can always give more of your time.”
Jean-Baptiste is one of several Warrior football players who work with the RE Initiative, which aims to support survivors of gender-based violence and works to create a culture of respect and responsibility. The student-athletes also work as PACTivists (Prevent, Act, Challenge, and Teach), leading informational and training sessions across campus.
“You realize that you have a voice as an athlete — you are recognizable whether you like it or not,” Jean-Baptiste said. “We can use that leadership role for something that is important to shed light on and something that unfortunately has been prominent lately. If you can help one person, that’s a good enough reason.”
For Heather Gerdes, WSU Gender-Based Violence Project Coordinator, partnering with student-athletes is especially effective in raising awareness of GBV because they are seen as leaders in the WSU community.
“We have been working with Obed and the Athletics Department for about two years now,” Gerdes said. “This has provided an essential working partnership to help us change a culture on how we prevent, intervene, and educate our campus on issues of gender-based violence.”
The WSU Football Leadership Council has a long tradition of sending Warrior football players into Winona and surrounding communities for a wide range of volunteer activities, council president Lauden Wood ’17 said.
“One of my favorite volunteering opportunities I have had is Readers to Warriors,” Wood said. “Every Tuesday and Friday, a group of football players heads over to Goodview Elementary and helps kids with their schoolwork. Seeing all the kids faces brighten up is a great feeling.”
For players like Jean-Baptiste, the program’s commitment to success and pride on the field, in the classroom and in the community is important.
“It’s not all about you, it’s not all about football. It helps you become a better person and a better man.”
For more information, contact the WSU Communications Office at 507-457-5024.