(Courtesy of Southern Maine Sports Information)
GORHAM, Maine – Samantha Allen, the head coach of the University of Southern Maine Huskies' women's basketball team and USM Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) advisor, was one of nine recipients of the President's Award for Community Engagement.
Presented annually to University of Southern Maine faculty and staff, the President's Award for Community Engagement is given to members of the faculty (graduate and undergraduate) who demonstrate an abiding commitment to incorporating community-based learning practices in their courses, and to staff who advance USM's mutually beneficial relationships with community members and organizations, and construct student opportunities in the community.
As advisor to the USM Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and as an instructor for the NCAA Champs Life Skills course, coach Samantha Allen has increased the depth and breadth of community-engagement and civic leadership in both disciplines in her two years as a full-time staff member.
Since taking over the advising role for SAAC, Allen has continued and improved the groups community-based projects including the Huskies' Community Halloween Party, Skate with the Huskies, and Holiday Caroling with local retirement communities and elementary schools. During the 2016-17 academic year, Allen's stewardship has led SAAC into a greater civic role with the creation of the Huskies' Unified Sports Program with Maine Special Olympics; the sponsorship, creation and publication of an Active Bystander Training presentation; and a newly created partnership with the USM Student Veterans Organization. With Allen's guidance and the hard work of the Huskies' SAAC members, the student-organization was recently presented with the USM Contribution to Community Service Award for the second consecutive year.
SAAC's Unified Sports Program invited local Special Olympians to the Costello Sports Complex for weekly one-hour sessions with USM student-athletes. During these sessions, the student-athletes worked with Special Olympians in various sporting activities splitting the time between skill development and application through fun mini-games. One of the highlights of program included inviting the participants to partake in a halftime exhibition basketball game. Additionally, SAAC sponsored a Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness campaign during the Athletic Department's Gorham Night Celebration. The "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign is a national program with the intent of ending the derogatory use of the word retarded in everyday conversation. Through advocacy and awareness, the goal of the campaign is to educate people on the hurtful effects of the word "retarded" and to encourage people to pledge to stop using it. Led by USM SAAC officer Zach Hamm, of the Huskies' men's lacrosse team, USM student-athletes committed to establishing a campus culture of inclusivity and diversity through thoughtful language practices.
SAAC's Active Bystander and Peer Advocacy presentation coincided with Mental Health Awareness Month. Led by Allen, SAAC coordinated with USM Counseling Services and Dr. Erin Hatch of Maine Medical Partners to facilitate an educational opportunity open to all students and members of the USM community to discuss and learn about the resources available on campus and to encourage them to recognize warning signs among peers who may be struggling with mental health.
Allen also led a newly formed partnership with the USM Student Veterans organization. Along with getting the groups together socially to share experiences, during the holidays both groups worked together to donate 46 duffle bags to NFI North, Inc. (North American Family Institute) with hats, socks, coloring books, and a stress toy. NFI North has locations in Buxton, Bridgton, Lewiston, Bath, Sidney, Stetson and Bangor, and most, if not all of the children come to the non-profit with just the clothes on their backs.
As an instructor of the NCAA Life Skills course, open to all USM students, Allen built into her course volunteer and mentorship experiences for those enrolled in her class. One of the community-outreach initiatives included in the framework of her syllabus included a mentorship program with Great Falls Elementary in which mentors spent one-on-one time with students engaged in activities ranging from reading, homework help, to play. Students in the Life Skills course were also invited to partake in the Unified Sports Program, and to volunteer at the annual Maine Special Olympics tournament hosted at the Costello Sports Complex alongside SAAC. Overall students in her class engaged in 10-15 hours of community service in a semester.
ABOUT USM ATHLETICS
Huskies' athletics proudly embraces the NCAA Division III philosophy and places the highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on the successful completion of all students' academic programs, maintaining an environment in which a student-athlete's athletic activities are conducted as an integral part of the student-athlete's educational experience. USM Athletics achieves this through the five key developmental areas: Academic Achievement, Athletic Performance, Personal Development, Career Development and Service to Community.
Forty-four different majors are represented by the Huskies' approximately 500 student-athletes, with General Management (44), Athletic Training (32), Exercise Physiology (31), Criminology (25), Nursing (24), Sport Management (21), Biology (21), Health Science (20), Mechanical Engineering (13), Finance (12), Exercise Science (12), and Marketing (11) being the favorites. However, USM student-athlete pursuits range from Theatre to Social Behavioral Sciences, to Physics and Liberal Studies. Collectively, the Huskies' student-athletes have an outstanding 2.94 grade point average and record 183 student-athletes were recognized this past fall as William B. Wise Scholar-Athletes. Each of the Huskies' 22 intercollegiate programs has representation among the 183 student-athletes that were honored.