UT Athletics 'family' raises money for education
Feb. 4, 2010
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Men's Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds likes to call UT Athletics one big family, and in that spirit, the Longhorns celebrated their extended family earlier this week.
On Monday night, in the expansive club space of the Red McCombs Red Zone, Dodds and Women's Athletics Director Chris Plonsky joined with the Neighborhood Longhorns Program (NLP) to host the annual "Dine with a Coach" dinner. The event is the primary fundraising effort for the NLP, an educational incentive and outreach program started in 1991 by UT Athletics.
Currently housed in UT's Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the NLP provides services to more than 5,000 students in second through eighth grades at 30 schools throughout the Austin community. And Monday night went a long way in helping that cause.
Coaches from every UT sport attended, more than $100,000 was raised and every dollar goes directly to educational programs, educational incentives and scholarships for the children who participate in NLP.
"To be able to take what we've done in the athletic department at The University of Texas and give back to young people so they can live their dreams is just very special," Football coach Mack Brown said. "And hopefully they will one day give to another person. That's what giving is all about."
Dodds, Jody Conradt and Donna Lopiano worked together almost 20 years ago to start NLP and build a program that reached beyond the UT campus. Since its inception, NLP has awarded more than half a million dollars in scholarships to participants who have excelled in reading programs and in classrooms.
"This is really about providing opportunity," Women's Basketball coach Gail Goestenkors said.
Dodds continued: "The amazing thing is the impact on the kids. Since we've been doing this, some 50,000 young people have been impacted, and that's pretty special. We want to help them, influence them and get them into college."
Through a partnership between then Austin Independent School District and UT Athletics, NLP is able to offer children real incentives to excel academically. Through various reading and leadership programs, students are rewarded with opportunities to attend UT sporting events, and even meet and mingle with coaches and student-athletes.
"The idea is to help these kids understand that The University of Texas -- or any higher education -- is a real possibility for them," Conradt explained. "We want to bring them to campus, and let them experience it."
And then the dreams continue.
"Neighborhood Longhorns has established in its participants the work ethic and discipline necessary to make the dream of college a reality," Plonsky said.