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New LEAD Initiative Empowers Student-Athletes to Support Texas Nonprofits

LEAD students at service event

In partnership with Texas Athletics, the DDCE has launched the Longhorns for Equity, Access and Diversity (LEAD) initiative to engage student-athletes in philanthropic work with nonprofits across the state. Starting in fall 2021, participating students will have the opportunity to leverage university resources for the public good—providing sponsorship funding and community service work to the nonprofits of their choosing.

The initiative will provide $100,000 of Texas Athletics funding per year for the next five years to nonprofits selected for sponsorship by student-athletes. Participating organizations must provide support/assistance to diverse Texas populations in the areas of education services, recreation activities, basic needs and/or emergency services.

“We are inspired by our student-athletes who are passionate about using their platforms to positively impact communities across the state,” says Dr. LaToya Smith, vice president of diversity and community engagement. “By connecting them to DDCE’s community sponsorship program, the LEAD Initiative fosters student leadership skills, while building campus and community partnerships that benefit Texans in need.”

In addition to building and sustaining mutually beneficial university-community partnerships, LEAD will give student-athletes experience in nonprofit work, allowing them to work together as a team in committee meetings and connect with innovative and visionary community leaders.

“We’re so excited to be partnering with DDCE on this tremendous opportunity,” says Chris Del Conte, vice president and athletics director. “Last summer, we made a multimillion-dollar commitment from athletics revenue to worthy university programs that work to recruit, attract, retain and support Black students. The LEAD initiative is a key part of that. It’s a program where our student-athletes will be directly involved, and one where they’ll be leaders in effecting positive social change. I’m truly excited to see all that, together, we can accomplish.”

The initiative also provides students with the unique opportunity to amplify the voices and needs of underserved communities in Austin and across the state.

“The LEAD Initiative inspires athletes to continue giving back because it allows us to have hands-on opportunities working with nonprofits and connecting with the community in positive ways and sparks joy in our lives,” says Logan Eggleston, LEAD president, Student Athlete Advisory Committee president and Texas Volleyball player. “This helps set us up with the knowledge and experiences on how to continue to give back and support our community.”

Another benefit of LEAD, Eggleston notes, is that it gives student-athletes a chance to pay it forward to the many Texas Longhorn supporters out in the community.

“It is important for the student-athletes to use our platforms and utilize our resources to help empower and make an impact in the community around us,” says Eggleston, who is a senior majoring in management in the McCombs School of Business. “The Austin community does so much to support and uplift our athletic programs and it is our turn to reciprocate the love and support back to them.”

LEAD was created as part of UT President Jay Hartzell’s series of actions to advance the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. The initiative is funded by Texas Athletics and managed by the DDCE. Participation is open to all student-athletes at UT Austin. For more information, contact LEAD Director Milly Lopez at m.lopez@austin.utexas.edu.

Applications for funding are now open. Eligible nonprofit organizations can apply here.