Junior student-athlete Sarah Engstrom, communications, works hard as a gymnast on the UW-Eau Claire women's gymnastics team. She also works hard to find a balance between her athletic achievements and her desire to use sports as a platform to help others. Sarah's membership in the UW-Eau Claire chapter of Athletes in Action, an on-campus Christian ministry for athletes, gave her that opportunity as she spent the month of June serving alongside student-athletes from across the nation in communities in south central Los Angeles.
"Sports can be self-centered and self-glorifying, which is ultimately unfulfilling," Sarah said. "I try to look at how I can combine my passion for sports and my passion for helping others. I need to use the opportunities I have to make a difference. That's what makes life fulfilling. I believe that no matter what field or activity you're involved in, you should have an outward focus."
While serving on the Urban Project-Los Angles trip, Sarah worked at a community center sports clinic in a housing project in Compton. Among the activities was a trip to the beach, which for most of the kids was their first trip even though they live only 30 minutes from it.
"Serving at the sports clinic was one of my favorite experiences, but also one of the hardest," Sarah said. "We saw the reality of life for the kids in that area, and that motivated us to give them at least one fun day. It was great to see them run, play and just be kids."
When people think of Los Angeles they think of Hollywood and beaches, she said, but like any city, it's also full of people living in poverty.
"I never realized how privileged I am," she said. "I have had so many opportunities in my life. In America, many of us know that poverty and injustice exists, but we don't always do anything to help. I learned that by not doing something, I am allowing the problem to exist. This experience will be something I will remember for the rest of my life, and I am so thankful for the opportunity."
Sarah Engstrom is a student-athlete who uses her talent to reach out to others. She is giving back AND going for gold, and that's pretty powerful.