Stepping out into the warm Texas air, I looked around and my heart broke instantly. In this neighborhood, piles of trash decorated the front yard of every home we passed. Mixed in with trash were personal belongings, remnants of memories and better days. Some houses were falling down, some were starting repairs, and others left only a blank square in the landscape where they once stood. I wondered how the residents survived and if they could ever be happy again.
NCAA Division III institutions offer student-athletes extensive opportunities to grow and learn outside of their sport. Guilford College has enabled me to reach out and explore different aspects of my life outside of volleyball. I joined a small-group Bible study and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. I also hold a work-study position in the sports information office on campus and conduct volunteer work in the Greensboro community. Additionally, I joined Guilford Christian Ministry to grow deeper in my faith, and this organization gave me the opportunity to serve in Port Arthur, Texas, over spring break without interrupting athletics or academics. In this one week alone, I experienced the Three D's of NCAA Division III Athletics: Discover, Develop, and Dedicate.
Guilford Christian Ministry organized a trip last month to serve people in Port Arthur recovering from Hurricane Harvey. We partnered with a group from Hope Church in Memphis, Tennessee, throughout the week. There were four work sites, including three separate houses and a church. We painted, cleaned up debris, installed floors, and landscaped around homes.
When the trip first came up, I knew I wanted to go and serve. I had never been on a disaster relief mission trip before, and I love to see new places. Community service has been a huge part of my life, and the trip was an opportunity to discover what this looked like in a new place and new type of service. I found a new sense of hope and appreciation for my life through the people we served. People lost their homes and everything they love to the devastating storm, but each person we met had such assurance in knowing everything would be okay. Miss Mary previously lost her family and now lost her home, but she was the most joyful and loving person I have ever met! It was amazing to see how she never once thought about giving up or moving; Port Arthur was her home and she intended to stay there no matter what. I discovered exactly what it meant to be resilient while furthering my passion for service.
I also learned a lot about poverty and faith in my first visit to Texas. I saw the effects of poverty and gentrification on a community. We explored the Project Row Houses in Houston's Third Ward during our free day. They tell the story of gentrification in that neighborhood through art. It opened my eyes to how this process affects the residents and how it changes communities. I saw the community's resilience and how it worked to preserve the things it loved. Through church and group reflections, I grew spiritually and saw ways God is working in my own life and the lives of others. I developed a deeper understanding of the love of God and how he cares for each of his children. It was amazing to see how God met each of us where we were, brought us closer together, and provided the next steps for us to take individually and as a group. This trip broadened my understanding of the world and my faith.
Upon returning to Guilford. I have dedicated myself to serving others and my team while on campus. God met me where I was, and I intend to do the same with the people I meet. It inspired a new sense of personal resilience and a passion for showing kindness I hope to share at Guilford and beyond. The trip to Texas was a life-changing experience I could not have had anywhere else, and I am forever grateful.
Some say being an athlete restricts a person to only their sport, but my experience as a Division III student-athlete has provided so much more. I am growing, exploring, and building a life through the opportunities afforded me at Guilford, while also pursuing a collegiate volleyball career. I love being a DIII athlete, and I wouldn't trade my experience for anything!
- Morgan Tompkins '20