Jan. 2, 2013
At Boston College, the phrase "men and women for others" carries great weight. The athletics program has taken this idea to heart emphasizing community service among the student-athletes. Senior track and field runner Jack Linehan embodies this spirit as much as any other Eagle.
Linehan is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which is a group of student-athletes representing all of the sports teams. Their job is to work as a liaison between the teams and the university administration when issues arise. SAAC, in conjunction with the Devlin S-AFE Program, is also in charge of organizing community service projects with the goal of continuing the Jesuit spirit of giving back.
In high school, Linehan had his first experience with community service in his home town of Crested Butte, Colo. At the time, his father was the president of the Adaptive Sports Center, which helped physically and mentally challenged people participate in extreme sports. Linehan donated his time by helping the program's ski participants.
Despite his participation in high school, Linehan did not come to BC seeking out community service; he says it just found him. It was a service trip to New Orleans during his freshman year that pulled him in.
The trip, Linehan's favorite service program, was helps rebuild homes that were destroyed duing Hurricane Katrina. After completing one of the homes, Linehan and his fellow student-athletes attended the house-warming party, a moving experience.
Linehan enjoyed the trip to New Orleans so much he has gone back the past three years and believes that he continues to return because of the high quality of people who want to help. It is a community-building experience.
"Obviously you are going to get a real high from doing community service because you are giving back," Linehan said. "You are also going to meet a lot of new athletes from different teams and it helps because when you come back you know 20 new people and have a whole new friend group. It helps with building a sense of family."
In addition to the new relationships Linehan has formed through the programs, he finds it gratifying to know that by putting in the work, he is helping to create a tangible difference for people in need.
"I am able to be there and get my hands dirty and see the progress that's being made," Linehan said. "At the housewarming party in New Orleans, I saw this lady break down and cry tears of joy. It was kind of an out-of-body experience; it was so powerful. It just showed me that my small contribution is going a long way."
The positive feelings after seeing the results of his work keep Linehan returning to community service. At the Heights, he has had the opportunity to serve with a lot of different people who share the same goal as he does.
"Our goal is to give back a little bit in any we can," Linehan said of the shared spirit for service. "We are given so much at BC and we have these unbelievable privileges as students and athletes and a lot of us feel like it is our responsibility to give back and create some kind of change in the system."
Community service has also enhanced Linehan's college experience by giving him something different to do then many of the other students at BC. In doing so, he feels that community service has made him a happier person on campus.
"It makes me feel like I'm putting my two cents in," he said. "Coming to BC, it feels like I'm not just going to class, going to practice, going back to my room, going to the dining hall. By going the extra mile and putting aside an hour here or there to help out is the best feeling."
The experience of community service has opened Linehan's eyes to the possibilities of what he can do with his life when he puts himself out there.
"There's a lot you can accomplish through raw will power and hard work," Linehan said. "Being an athlete here and being a big part of SAAC has made me proactive and thankful for what I have. I can see that now much clearer."
After the trip to New Orleans, Linehan became more and more invested in community service and SAAC and wanted to have a greater impact.
"I wanted to be a leader, not only on the field but also through community service," Linehan said. "I thought that was an important part of BC athletics, there needed to be more leaders and I wanted to be one of them."
As the president of the committee, Linehan runs the meetings which occur once a month. He also gets together with the other board members about once every two weeks. At these meetings, they run through different issues facing student-athletes, make sure things are running smoothly with the different community service programs and try to find ways to improve things.
With graduation fast approaching in May, Linehan does not have any specific plans to continue his community service but he knows he will stay active. He hopes to do whatever he can to help out, giving up his time when he can to help out at a shelter or serve food to the homeless. He plans to move to Port Tio, Chile, and take at least a year off to work in the ski area there.
Written by Eddie Lockhart