Longtime athletic director Clint Bryant has a 28-year track record of giving back to the Augusta community, and over the years, he’s worked hard to weave that dedication into the fabric of the Augusta University Athletics Department. “All 13 of our teams do different things as community service projects,” Bryant says. “At the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Easter Seals, the YMCA – we do a lot with kids, and we do a lot with the military community, too.”
Bryant has continued to build upon the school’s 25-year relationship with Fort Gordon, growing that engagement from a Military Day to a Military Week to last year’s Military Game, where the school’s hosting of 1,000 soldiers was seen in over 100 million homes on the CBS Sports Network. And then there’s the annual Education Day basketball game that brings 2,500 fifth-graders from the desks of Richmond County Schools to the seats of Christenberry Fieldhouse. This year, the kids didn’t just see a game, they were also introduced to about a dozen Augusta University administrators, faculty and staff members who were once Richmond County grade schoolers.
Bryant says it’s important for the kids to make the connection between those running the school, including the man that just
happens to be the president of the university, and themselves. “We wanted them to come to Augusta University and see people who looked like them who were once sitting in the same seats they were sitting in and realize it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they can go to college here,” Bryant says.
Among those kids a was a group of fifth-grade boys from Gracewood Elementary who are part of Jocks and Gents, a mentoring program established by assistant men’s basketball coach Jamie Quarles, who just so happens to have received his undergraduate degree and master’s degree from Augusta University. Approximately once a month, team members accompany Quarles to the school, catch up a little with the kids and then help them with a project, like organizing their binders, making Christmas cards for patients at the medical center or learning the importance of dressing for success.
“Interacting with those kids is important because it gives them someone to look up to,” Quarles says of the program. “And it’s perfect when the kids come to the Education Day game, because they feel special. All the fifth-graders in the county are there, and those kids from Gracewood actually have a relationship with members of the team. That’s tough to beat.”