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making plays AND making a difference

| Denise Olson

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student-athletes are not just students and athletes — they're mentors, coaches, volunteers, tutors, activists and role models. Blugolds play hard and work harder, which is why they are consistently recognized as conference and national scholar-athletes.  

Joel Newman, Red Wing, Minnesota,  is no exception to this rule. As a quarterback for the Blugolds, Joel knows what it takes to achieve his goals as an athlete, but his goals off the field give him the greatest sense of accomplishment. The future Spanish teacher and University Honors Program participant uses his passion for the language and teaching to mentor international students on campus and tutor a Cuban-born elementary student from an area school district.

"Watching a young student progress from speaking exclusively Spanish, to then having the confidence to speak English in front of his entire class was an incredibly rewarding experience for me, and it helped me to realize what I want to do for the rest of my life," Joel said. "As a sports fan, I've always cheered for the underdog, and that kind of mentality has inspired me to want to teach students facing adversity. English learners face challenges every day — a language barrier, culture shock, being a minority in our culture — and I'm really motivated by the opportunity to be able to make a difference."  

While he credits Blugold football with introducing him to his best friends and offering him the support of the student body and Eau Claire community in ways that many students don't experience, it has been discovering the path to teaching second-language learners that has given Joel his truest sense of purpose at UW-Eau Claire.

"I've been privileged to meet people from Brazil, Japan and several other countries who have impacted me," Joel said. "I've learned a lot from the students, and my perspective has changed. I now realize how much I take for granted." 

Being able to easily communicate with his community is one thing Joel will never take for granted again, and helping others in this regard is something he knows will bring him great satisfaction as a future teacher. In the meantime, his last season as a Blugold player is set to be another incredible chance to make friends and lifelong memories on and off the field. 

Joel Newman is a proud Blugold who is making plays AND making a difference … and that's pretty powerful.   

Photo caption: Joel Newman, right, working as a mentor to international student Pedro Henrique during the 2014-15 academic year.