More than 170 student-athletes visited the 32nd Street School on Dec. 7 for the third annual Community Bowl, a day of mentorship and campus beautification.
Despite the rain and cold temperatures, the Trojans joined children and their families to work on 12 projects at the campus across the street from USC.
From spray-painting murals to planting vegetable gardens and replacing tattered basketball nets, the athletes got their hands dirty, and plenty wet, during a hard day’s work. After the projects, the students were rewarded with reading time, a healthy lunch and other events.
The impact of the volunteer efforts goes beyond cosmetic improvements. Midway through the painting session, Principal Ezekiel Gonzalez introduced a middle school student to football players Leon McQuay and Chris Willson. Gonzalez asked the Trojans to chat with the boy about their commitment to academics.
“This particular student loves football, but refuses to work in the classroom,” the principal said. “Today is the day that he will either turn his life around or get lost from the system before he finishes high school. These athletes are his final chance for real motivation.”
Willson and McQuay, much like their fellow Trojans, assumed the role of mentors with grace and enthusiasm. They spoke about dedication in the classroom, treating coaches with respect and a commitment to self.
“Before USC offered me a scholarship,” McQuay said, “they talked to everybody I knew to make sure I was a good kid because that’s the only way to do it.”
The project was made possible with the help of the Trojan Athletic Parents Association (TAPA), whose donations of time and materials facilitated the school’s makeover. TAPA volunteer Mark Tanimura’s contributions of fruit and water kept the attendees hydrated throughout the day, and the camera work of Scot Obler helped document the visual aspects of each project.
Community Bowl has become a December tradition since Matt Barkley and his teammates kicked off the first gathering in 2011. The event was funded by the Otis Booth Community Outreach Endowment for USC Athletics.