FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – While many people were still in bed, a number of Northern Arizona student-athletes were up early at the crack of dawn on Saturday to team with several NAU retirees for a worthwhile community service project. Representatives from the men's basketball, football and women's cross country programs partnered with the group of former university professors for an Adopt-A-Highway clean-up along a stretch of the I-17.
Several members of the NAU Athletics staff joined the group of about 20 student-athletes and a half dozen retirees for the highway beautification project spanning several miles both north and south of the Rocky Park Road exit on I-17 near Munds Park.
The NAU Athletics contingent spaced out in vans and picked up trash and debris on both sides of the highway while introducing themselves and spreading Lumberjack pride with the handful of former classroom leaders.
"It was a great experience to be able to lend a hand to the community while bonding with my teammates," said incoming men's basketball freshman Corey Brown. "I'm glad we got the chance to partner with NAU retirees help clean up the local highways and make it a better place for all."
The group of dedicated NAU retired professors has participated in highway clean-up for the last 20 years on three occasions per year as required by the Arizona Department of Transportation. While the group typically ranges between six to 15 volunteers, the group's leader Ken Bean has found it difficult to recruit volunteers as the retirees get older making Saturday's outing with the NAU student-athletes to be an extremely big boost.
"We're all getting older so I'm having trouble recruiting people," said Bean, a retired professor in the chemistry department for 33 years. "It was a savior to have the student-athletes. Without them we wouldn't have been able to get it done. I hope this shows (the student-athletes) and many others what is possible to do in the city."
After completing a record-setting 5,327 combined community service hours during the most recent academic year, NAU Athletics student-athletes are off to a strong start inspiring Northern Arizona – and making their home a more beautiful place in this instance – for the upcoming 2015-16 season.