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For nearly a decade, students taking a University of Kentucky sport leadership course have been discovering that a class assignment can be more than a chance to develop new skills. It can also be a way to give back.

Graduate students in the UK College of Education [education.uky/khp]Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion course KHP 685, “Supervision of Sport and Fitness Personnel,” take part in the “Good Deeds Project.”  The annual assignment is designed to connect a community engagement element to functions of a supervisor.

Students create a community service initiative that includes planning, staffing, directing/leading, and evaluating their project. The coursework prepares them for careers in areas such as sport administration, sport management, coaching, community and youth sports, and recreation.

The course is taught by Justin Nichols, Ed.D., assistant professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion.

“The scenarios students encounter when organizing donation drives often mirror issues they will take the lead on in their future careers. They get to practice communicating with organizations, navigating logistics, creating marketing plans, responding to unexpected circumstances, supervising employees, and many other skills needed for effective leadership. The chance to take part in an experiential learning opportunity while doing a good deed has been heartwarming to witness each year I have taught the course,” Nichols said. 

Often, the students collect donations at UK Athletics offices, as well as UK sporting events. This semester, students collected 120 stuffed animals for patients at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, 168 pairs of shoes for the Soles for Souls organization, and 300 pounds of food for God's Pantry of Fayette County. For Military Missions, 70 greeting cards were handwritten by event participants to be sent to active-duty military personnel overseas.

Last year, students partnered with Kentucky First Lady Britainy Beshear to collect new toys and books for children in Eastern Kentucky impacted by flooding. Through the years, the course has generated hundreds of coats, thousands of books, hundreds of toys, hundreds of hygiene items, and several hundred pounds of food for local and regional organizations. 

By using an assignment on the class syllabus to make a difference in the community, the students are also learning the value of seeking mutually beneficial opportunities to collaborate with community organizations.

“I continue to be impressed by the success the students have in collecting donations and by how much they gain from the process. It is great to see the community come together for projects like this,” Nichols said.