Meet Jorge Herrera, the Facility Graduate assistant at University Recreation, better known as the “UREC”. A native from Silver Spring, MD, he currently studies in the masters of Higher Education Administration program. He enjoys taking part in various recreational activities while still focusing on helping his student staff develop critical thinking and transferable skills within the work place. As a first year graduate assistant, Jorge is ecstatic about learning the theoretical background of student development through Higher Education and practicing new theories within the field of recreation. He aspires a future career within recreation or student affairs upon graduation.
The alarm sounded at 5:30am on a Saturday morning. The Louisiana sun had yet to fill the blue skies over the field complex, but as 6:00 am struck I was already through the doors of the LSU Student Recreation complex for what seemed to be a quiet Saturday shift. As I hooked a radio to my belt and clipped on my manager keys, I greeted my student staff whom so diligently arrived to begin set-up for our event that morning.
As the sun began to rise over Death Valley, the UREC staff had worked hard all morning to prepare for the big game. Athletes started to arrive and the bleachers began to fill up. A sharp silence fell over the UREC field complex as LSU and Alabama players anxiously awaited the 9:00 AM game whistle at the 2014 Unified Special Olympics flag football game.
A game filled with extraordinary athletes and ESPN covered the field to televise this historic show down. An event filled with performances from the LSU Tiger girls, cheerleaders, and special guests like President Alexander; it was truly one of a kind. As the game moved past each quarter, LSU’s nationally ranked special team surpassed Alabama and took the lead.
As a volunteer on the sideline, I began to realize how lucky I was to be a part of this event. This flag football game stood for much more than just a game for these special athletes. It was an opportunity for athletes, spectators, volunteers, and all viewers to come together and celebrate the efforts of athletes from all different backgrounds. It was an opportunity to celebrate diversity and unify people from within the communities near and far and empower individuals who were unique in their own way.
As the 4th quarter arrived, LSU significantly dominated Alabama’s valiant athletes, but regardless all of the athletes were true champions. I was fortunate to have been part of this magnificent experience through my assistantship at UREC. This event opened my eyes to the impact recreation and wellness can have on all members throughout any community and how even setting up some tables or putting out a few cones can contribute to changing lives of the athletes.