Step Forward Day Recap: Cross Country and Track and Field

Step Forward Day

Sept. 13, 2012

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MALIBU, Calif. – The Pepperdine cross country and track teams joined forces on September 8 to make an impact on their local community. These 28 student-athletes participated in Step Forward Day, a Pepperdine tradition and commitment to start the school year off with the ideals of purpose, service, and leadership in mind.

Step Forward Day is an annual day of collective volunteer service that brings together students, faculty, staff and alumni. Now in its 24th year, the University has been committed to beginning each school year with a day of service to communities around the nation. Dozens of campus organizations, including several of the Waves’ athletics teams, assisted nonprofit groups, schools, churches and parks throughout Southern California. Alumni chapters across the county also made an impact by participating in organized service projects in their own communities.

Step Forward Day began in 1988 when two Pepperdine students recognized the need for volunteers in the local community and sought to encourage service among their peers. The projects began as small acts of service from helping to repair homes of local senior citizens to planting gardens at Webster Elementary School.

This year, the Waves’ cross country and track and field team lent their landscaping talents to a community garden in North Hollywood. Freshman Stasia Demick (Seattle, Wash./Holy Names Academy) shares her story:

The Saturday morning 7:30 a.m. check-in time was considered sleeping in compared to the team’s typical 6:37 a.m. practice call. The student-athletes shared bagels and laughter on the bus ride to the L.A. Community Garden in North Hollywood.

“I expected we would get dirty,” freshman captain Katie Engel (Honeoye Falls, N.Y./Honeonye Falls-Lima HS) jested before adding, “But I was looking forward to working in an urban area and help the local and environmental community. “

The team’s experience lived up to this expectation. Many put game faces on as they observed the small garden overrun with weeds. The bright and smiling coordinator of the local garden, Mary-Kate, greeted the Waves. A past theater-choreography teacher at Pepperdine University, she excitedly inquired about student’s majors. Once the team was acquainted with the local gardeners they got down to work.

The Waves weeded pathways, dug up deep roots, cut away thick walls of ivy and snacked on the garden’s oranges along the way. The tasks were not easy, many battled allergies, and the labor included chopping old plants with a machete to make compost. Hours of hard work paid off and new friendships blossomed (pun intended) between the gardeners and student-athletes.

The garden was pristine by the end of the service experience. The volunteer trip concluded with a tour of the garden’s local animal farm. Many enjoyed holding the bunnies, talking with the ducks, and petting the donkeys. However, the team’s favorite was the puppy Mozzie. The young basset hound was doted upon until the last minutes of the team’s service trip.

Senior track captain Juliet Casillas (Los Angeles, Calif./Folsom HS) reflected the thoughst of her team calling the day of service “very rewarding. Knowing my team and I can come together and devote one of our few free Saturdays to better serve our community and understand how important it is to be a Wave of service and leadership.

“Athletes rose to the challenge and in the end we were able to play with the animals and see what a difference we made, so it was all worth it.”

After arriving back on campus, the team went on their respective runs and their separate ways for the day. The Waves were prepared for this day of service. One might wonder what cross country, track, and Step Forward day have in common?  Whether rising to occasion in a race or boarding a bus to serve others, both experiences begin with the same action: one step. 



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