WILLIAMS, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona soccer team traveled to Williams on Thursday to give two separate presentations for 250 students at Williams Middle School and Williams High School. The Lumberjack squad advocated against bullying and alcohol and drug abuse and promoted making positive choices in life to the students in an assembly setting.
"We play a big part in helping kids as role models," said junior Alana D'Onofrio. "A lot of kids look up to us and it was a special thing to help those in need that maybe have broken families and drug and alcohol abuse problems. It's the least we can do to help them."
Accompanied by NAU soccer assistant coach Holly Jones and Assistant AD for Academics Pam Lowie, the Lumberjack soccer team addressed the growing problems surrounding bullying, specifically cyber bullying, and drug use. Through personal experiences shared by the players themselves, the students at both schools learned that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reaching their goals starts with making healthy decisions and staying in school. The team stressed healthy alternatives such as joining a sport or a club to surround themselves with people they can rely on.
With the Northern Arizona University campus just a short distance from the town of Williams, it provides the students in town with a unique opportunity to eventually attend NAU while not being too far away from home. Thursday's presentations also allowed the students to meet and interact with just a handful of the NAU student-athletes that they look up to.
"It's huge because it's such a small community and being able to have NAU just 30 miles down the road gives them something to look forward to," said Bryan Lords, principal of Williams Middle School. "Without that, we have the issues of drug abuse and alcohol problems that small communities usually have. We're fortunate to have the college down the road so we don't many of those problems. The more we can keep the kids aware of the other things that are out there that can get them out of the community is important. These kids look up to the college athletes that are involved in not only athletics but in the community."
D'Onofrio assisted Lowie in planning the presentations and hoped that the team left the students with a positive message that they can take going forward.
"The message we wanted to pass onto them is to focus on good grades and put their mind to something outside of drugs and alcohol," D'Onofrio said. "Whether that's sports or extracurricular activities, we want them to graduate high school and have the goal of going to college."