For Matador student-athletes, there’s more to the beach than surf and sun. Dozens of California State University, Northridge student-athletes from three different sports gathered July 19 at the Manhattan Beach pier for a Heal the Bay beach clean-up event. Under overcast skies, the students combed the sand for trash and other debris left behind by summer beachgoers.
“Community service is an important part of our college experience,” said Camille Mahlknecht, a junior center for the women’s basketball team, standing on the beach with her teammates. “It makes you a better person overall. … It’s also a great activity — we’re outside, making the world a better place and we’re bonding. … It’s great for the school.”
For almost 30 years, Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization has been dedicated to cleaning up Santa Monica Bay and its adjoining waters. The group educates the community through beach clean-ups and education programs. The Matadors’ Saturday beach clean-up event was part of Heal the Bay’s monthly “Nothin’ But Sand” program, which aims to remove every unnatural item from beaches throughout California.
The student-athletes spent the morning picking up any debris in sight along Manhattan Beach, such as bottles, cans, plastic foam and other trash. The group also sorted and separated out recyclable material.
The students recorded data on how many items of each type they collected to help Heal the Bay officials identify sources of pollution and work toward developing solutions.
“College students know that they can make a difference,” said event coordinator Meredith McCarthy of Heal the Bay. “Clean-ups are a really important way to build teamwork. They have an incredible way of leaving everybody with this feeling that they’ve had a huge impact. CSUN understands how connected they are to this region.”
The group of student-athletes and athletics staff members used the beach clean-up event to kick off CSUN’s Matador 2000 community service initiative. The new program aims to increase involvement with local communities through athletic, academic and philanthropic service. Organizers have challenged each CSUN athletic team to earn 2,000 hours of community service throughout the academic year. CSUN coaches and administrative staff also will contribute.
Brandon Martin, Ed.D., CSUN’s director of intercollegiate athletics, called the beach clean-up a great start to the initiative.
“Today is a great opportunity for our kids to give back,” said Martin, who participated in the Manhattan Beach clean-up. “This is all about serving the community. When you’re in a different environment, you get to know the student-athletes on a different level and bond with your staff. It creates a family environment.”