By Runa Lemminn
The girls had looks of amazement and delight as they got off the school buses in front of CSU Bakersfield’s Icardo Center. After all, being greeted with cheers and high fives from the entire CSUB women’s basketball team doesn’t happen every day.
That was only the beginning of an inspirational and action-packed day at CSUB for the mostly middle-school-aged girls. The event was held on January 27, 2018 in honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
Thanks to the CSUB program Women Influencing The Next Generation Through Sports, approximately 100 girls from 10 different elementary and middle schools experienced a world of motivation and positive goals for their own futures.
After their initial welcome, the girls checked in and got into groups. Each group then went off with different CSUB student-athletes who showed the girls a little about their sports.
WINGS is a mentoring program that focuses on female student athletes at CSUB, and in turn, also encourages those athletes to mentor children in the community.
Cindy Goodmon, Chair of the WINGS program said everybody benefits from being involved.
“It not only helps our community, but it empowers our young women. Because when these little girls are looking up to them, it changes our women,” said Goodmon. “Some of our (CSUB) girls come from tough backgrounds. It’s kind of neat for them to take down their shields and kind of open up their hearts, and be like ‘hey, I was in your shoes, and look where I wound up.’”
Lewis Neal, youth services supervisor with the Bakersfield City School District talked about how much the district appreciates the partnership with CSUB. Neal said the focus is on girl power, and on working on their self-esteem.
“We need to empower our girls. We need to let them know they are intelligent and they matter. Some of these girls don’t realize their potential,” said Neal.
The message had an effect on many of the visiting girls, who were cheering and raising their hands when the CSUB student athletes asked them “who wants to go to college?”
Tamaya Smith, a student at Emerson Jr. High School, said she was having a great time.
“I like the soccer the best,” said Smith.
Stephanie Mundy, a special education teacher at Compton Jr. High said some of her girls had never been on the CSUB side of town before. Mundy, who also coaches basketball, said she wanted some of her girls to come out and have experiences that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
“I wanted my girls basketball group to see an actual game, and the other girls, I wanted them to participate in WINGS,” said Mundy.
Almost every women’s sport at CSUB was represented at the event by the athletes.
Cheers of “let’s go Runners” by the visitors were heard frequently.
Each session lasted around 20 minutes, and then each group went off to experience the next sport.
Cheerleading and dancing were a hit. The girls loved being held up in the air by the cheerleaders.
CSUB student athletes talked to each new group of girls about the importance of good grades and going to college.
The WINGS program also strives to appeal to girls who don’t necessarily want to be an athlete. CSUB athletes talked to the girls about the importance of good grades, because making good grades provides choices for their future.
Jordin Bartel, Kinesiology junior and soccer player said she personally has been involved with WINGS for about three years, and added that the entire women’s soccer team was there.
“It’s fun, I think it’s a good way to get young girls thinking about college and thinking about what they want to do. It’s good on our part to help them think about what’s coming next in their life,” said Bartel.
Later in the morning, the girls all went to the pool to watch the CSUB swim team warming up for a meet. They screamed while watching the divers doing flips off the diving board and the swimmers practicing starts off the blocks.
Rhea McCoy, a student at McKinley Elementary School said it was her first time at CSUB. Swimming and volleyball were her favorite sports. Watching how fast the swimmers are impressed her. McCoy said she loved all the competition in the pool.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said McCoy.
Goodmon said all student athletes are encouraged to volunteer in the community.
The WINGS program, which has several events throughout the year, gives the girls valuable contacts in the community for after they graduate.
“Our coaches are pretty on board. It’s not mandated, but our student-athletes are strongly encouraged to be involved with community service,” said Goodmon. “If you’re involved with giving back, it’s going to make you a better person.”
The teachers and program coordinators with the visiting girls also said community service was an important activity from their perspective. Mundy considers it a crucial part of her life.
“Our focus is kindness and giving back. You plant a seed and you hope that it grows. So that’s what I’m doing, planting seeds,” said Mundy.
At the end of the rotations through each sport activity, the girls all came together in the old gym, where Sydney Haynes, a senior kinesiology major, spoke to them. Haynes said beforehand that her goal was to give a motivational talk.
“I didn’t start volleyball until I was in high school, so I want to tell them to try all sports, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t make it because you have no idea what your path will be or what your skills are,” said Haynes.
Her message served to reinforce the message from Neal to the girls in the BCSD.
“We try to teach them: ‘Don’t let anyone define you,’” said Neal.
The grand finale of the day for the girls was watching the CSUB women’s basketball team beat Seattle University 75-68. Since the girls had already gotten to know the athletes on the team a little, as well as the cheerleaders and dancers, th
ey cheered loudly when they saw them come into the gym. It made the whole game more special for the visitors.
Before the girls climbed back on their buses, they each got a t-shirt with the autographs of all the women’s basketball team student athletes on it.
When Tamaya Smith described her day at CSUB, she said: “If it was on a 1 to 10 scale, I would give it a 200!”
The WINGS program has several events throughout the year. Goodmon said she hopes there’s an even larger turnout next year.
“We want it to grow,” said Goodmon.