Gopher Global Returns from Chicago

Go Gophers! Gopher Global revitalized a Chicago elementary school.
Go Gophers!
Gopher Global revitalized a Chicago elementary school.
Go Gophers!

June 14, 2012

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Junior student-athletes Kelsey Joson (W. Track and Field) and Moses Alipate (Football) have both been active participants in multiple events organized by Student-Athlete Affairs since they arrived on campus. In the spring of 2011, they were inspired to create and import a new branch of service outreach that the University of Minnesota Athletic Department had never seen before. Kelsey, with the help of the Minnesota Athletic Department staff members, then created a non-profit organization, and named it Gopher Global. Gopher Global’s mission statement is “to promote the importance of exercise, nutrition, and education globally through service in different communities.”

“One of the main purposes of Gopher Global is to provide the opportunity for Gopher student-athletes to travel outside of the state to make an impact in more locations than just Minnesota.” Kelsey stated, “We do a lot of service work around the Twin Cities area, and I feel like we, as an athletic department, should not only focus on improving our state, but we should take the extra step forward to make a positive difference everywhere we go.”

A total number of eleven University of Minnesota student-athletes are currently a part of Gopher Global. The student-athletes who are actively involved in this organization are Cross Country/Track and Field Team Members Kelsey Joson, Anne Ferguson, and Megan Smith, Soccer Players Lauren Bauer and MacKenzie Misel, Rowers Caitlin Boon and Sarah Kreuger, Football Player Chris Hawthorne, Swimmer Nathan Jobe, and Tennis Player Alexa Palen.

Gopher Global recently planned, organized, fundraised, and attended their first ever community outreach trip, which was held in Chicago, Illinois. The Gopher Global student-athletes, along with the help of Anissa Lightner, who also attended this Chicago community outreach event, and multiple other University of Minnesota Athletic Department Staff members organized and fundraised enough money to completely cover the costs of Gopher Global’s first ever service trip.

After bussing from Minneapolis to Chicago all day on Friday June 8th, 2012, Gopher Global got strait to work on Saturday morning, June 9th, 2012. While in Chicago, these University of Minnesota student-athletes worked alongside student-athletes from three other Big Ten Universities: Michigan State, Michigan, and Illinois. After meeting in the morning with all of the volunteers, the student-athletes were then bussed to one of the twenty-four elementary schools in the Chicago area to begin working on cleaning, painting, and re-decorating the schools.

After a hard day’s work by our Gopher student-athletes, it was evident that these individuals really made a lasting impact at Benjamin Banneker School, which is an elementary school located in Englewood, Illinois. Benjamin Banneker is also the former elementary school of Gopher Football Player Johnny Johnson. Over twenty rooms, more than six murals and hallways, the entire gym, and also outdoor projects such as a map of the United States, foursquare courts, and hopscotch areas were re-painted and decorated.

Overall, the first service trip by Gopher Global was a huge hit among the University of Minnesota student-athletes. Their organization and service means a lot to the University of Minnesota, the state of Minnesota, and now the Midwest. More importantly, it means a lot to the student-athletes whom were able to actively carry out Gopher Global’s goals and mission. Gopher Football student-athlete Chris Hawthorne says about Gopher Global, “The organization means a great deal to me because of what we stand for and the way we get to affect people. We take the basic community outreach we do here in and around the Twin Cities and broaden the scope to affect other areas of the country and eventually, the world.”

When asking MacKenzie Misel about the best part of Gopher Global she says, “It shows to others that we not only care about them, but we are willing to take on the challenge to help better their lives.”

Kelsey Joson adds, “The trip was amazing. There was not one problem and I think everyone that attended got something out of the trip and had a fun time in Chicago. It was everything I could have ever imagined, and we can only go up from here! I am still shocked to this day that this trip actually happened. It was such a success, and I would not have changed anything about it.”

These student-athletes returned home to Minneapolis on Sunday, June 10th, 2012. Check back soon for more information on Gopher Global, Gopher student-athletes, and your University of Minnesota Student-Athlete Affairs.