Harrisonburg, Va., April 2, 2012-
In the early hours of Friday mornings when most students are still asleep or are preparing for class, members of the James Madison women's soccer team volunteer in the nursery at Harrisonburg High School.
A nursery was created at the local high school when the school officials realized that many teenage mothers do not complete high school because of the separation from their child. Providing a nursery at the school allows the students to attend classes while having reassurance that their child is cared for and safe. Lauren Wilson, Dana O'Brien, Becky Sparks and Theresa Naquin from the women's soccer team have each volunteered in the nursery beginning around 7 a.m. when the Harrisonburg High School students and their children arrive for the school day.
The opportunity to volunteer in the nursery was introduced to the soccer team through the health sciences class in which sophomore defender Sparks and redshirt sophomore defender Naquin are enrolled. "I wanted to get involved with the Harrisonburg High School nursery because I felt it was a good way to show the community how much we care," said Naquin."It also peaked my interest since I plan to become a nurse in the future."
Sophomore forward Lauren Wilson enjoyed the opportunity to work in the nursery. "To be able to help women our own age seemed like the perfect fit for a community service opportunity," said Wilson. "I loved the fact that we were there playing with children who had ambitious mothers to continue in school and create a better life for them in their future."
The athletes spent the morning playing with the children, reading books to them and helping with snack time. When the athletes visited the high school, they interacted with children in the nursery whose ages range from newborn to around four years old.
Sparks recalled a fun story from their morning with the children when three of the children made a fort and wanted to call it their house. They laid in one of the cribs and then Sparks and Naquin covered them up with a blanket over the top of the crib to create a roof for their house. The opportunity to work with these children was a highlight for the athletes and Naquin explained, "I love working with children because of their innocence. I just get a rewarding feeling when working with them."
Though the soccer team members visited the high school as a community service event, they considered the experience to be much more than that. "It was hard to say it was community service because it was just so much fun," said Wilson. "Working with the children was so natural and they were so inviting to new people who wanted to play with them and give them attention."
The athletes plan to continue volunteering at the nursery in order to spend more time with the children and assist the high school and the teenage mothers who are comforted by the presence of their children located only a few doors down the hall from them. "It was an eye opener to see what a teenage mother has to go through every day of her life and still has to participate in school," explained Sparks. "The children were adorable and very easy to work with. I give the mothers a lot of credit."
Naquin agreed and said, "It was an eye-opening experience to see a sneak peek of what goes on in the daily life of a teenage mother. I had a great experience and I would definitely like to continue with this event."