Many student-athletes spend their summers relaxing, conditioning and getting ready for the school year to start. But Missouri State University women's soccer senior Jessica Roberts spent this past summer helping the less fortunate in Uganda, Africa and coaching youth teams in Guatemala.
"I have always wanted to go to Africa," said Roberts. "It sounded like a great idea. It was exciting and a great opportunity."
Roberts and teammate Kristina Tomaras went to Uganda with a group led by Missouri State Prevention, Rehabilitation and Physical Performance Coordinator Mitch Hauschildt. The group of 19 people under the moniker Man Up and Go, took donated items, including clothing, school supplies and other beneficial products, to aid in projects.
While in Uganda, one of the service projects that the group did was to paint an orphanage.
The group was in Uganda for two weeks. Roberts said that the ability to communicate was not a detriment as they travelled through the country.
"Everywhere we went, someone spoke English. The kids even knew enough English to tell us their names and how they were doing."
Roberts and Tomaras taught kids to play soccer and other activities while helping to lift spirits in impoverished areas.
After returning from Africa, Roberts then headed to Guatemala for six weeks as part of Mission El Faro. She was stationed in Punta de Palma for a majority of her stay.
A friend of Roberts' had gone to Central America a couple of years ago with her Evangel basketball team and told her about the trip. Roberts reached out to the coach in Guatemala expressing interest in helping out and the timing worked great. The coach was leaving to get married and Roberts assumed the role of coach in his absence.
Roberts took the reins of four different youth teams. She taught them soccer skills and team camaraderie. Roberts said kids from as far as an hour away would come to her training sessions to learn about soccer.
Her teams competed against neighboring villages, including a tournament through Champions in Action at the end of her stay. Roberts' team played in the title game, finishing second in the tournament.
"This summer helped me realize how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to be a student-athlete."