Birmingham, Ala. - In a continuing effort to recognize the accomplishments of student-athletes beyond the field of competition, the SEC once again highlighted a Community Service Team for women's tennis for the 2019-20 season.
All league-sponsored sports have had a Community Service Team since 2004, with at-large teams for men's and women's sports being chosen from 1999-2003.
Alba Cortina Pou • Alabama
Senior • Blanes, Spain
Alba Cortina Pou spent her time volunteering for several different organizations and events in the Tuscaloosa community. Cortina Pou participated in the annual Halloween Extravaganza and Project Angel Tree. She also spent time the women's tennis team helping to build a house through Habitat for Humanity.
Myrna Olaya • Arkansas
Senior • Little Rock, Ark.
Myrna Olaya has had an outstanding impact within the community throughout her career as a Razorback. Myrna has dedicated her time to a variety of community service projects including multiple visits to the NWA Children's hospital in which she spent time interacting and having fun with the resident patients of the hospital. She also participated in the Sweat Hogs Program which travels to local elementary schools and teaches the children the importance of exercise and sport to a person's life and health. In addition, Myrna was an asset to the Fearless Food Fight campaign and helped pack meals which are used to stock food banks and pantries across the state of Arkansas. She partook in a day long Habitat for Humanity Team build in which she aided in the construction of a house for a local family in need of financial assistance. Myrna also participated in the Shop with Razorbacks Program in which volunteers accompanied local elementary children to shop for clothing and toys in the week leading up to Christmas. She also dedicated a day to volunteering at the Fayetteville marathon in which she assisted at the water/refreshments station and handed out drinks to the runners while offering words of encouragement. Furthermore, she was a huge part of the Team Luke Charity event in which she taught tennis to members of the Arkansas community to raise money for children with traumatic brain injuries.
Taylor Russo • Auburn
Senior • Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Taylor Russo is a two-time selection to the SEC Community Service Team. She has helped with the Auburn downtown Trick-or-Treat with her team and other student-athletes. She and her teammates also went to Morningside Nursing Home at Christmas to decorate residents' doors and the facility to help boost holiday spirit. In addition, she and the team sponsored two children at Christmas through the Salvation Army; she has taken part in that for four years. Russo helped make cards for veterans on Valentine's Day and worked with the campus food pantry to collect over 2,200 cans of food. Last year, when the March 3 tornadoes struck Lee County, she volunteered at Church of the Highlands' Dream Center to pack food and unload trucks of donations for those that lost their homes. She has also been part of Auburn's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for three years; as the social media coordinator last year and the treasurer this year.
Marlee Zein • Florida
Sophomore • Sugar Land, Texas
Marlee Zein spent time volunteering at a local food drive and visiting with patients at UF Health Shands Children's hospital. Teaming up with Gainesville's Catholic Charities, Zein and several other Gator student-athletes helped put together over 900 bags full of food for families in the area. The health education and behavior major packed, assembled and loaded the bags as thanksgiving meals were delivered all over Gainesville. During the team's visit to the University's hospital, Zein met with patients and spent quality time with those in need.
Meg Kowalski • Georgia
Sophomore • Chicago, Ill.
Meg Kowalski has been an excellent example of a student athlete that goes above and beyond to do her part in the community. She was a mentor at Barrow Elementary school, where she met weekly with a third grader and spent time with her for an hour a day, was in charge of bobbing for pumpkins with teammate Alee Clayton at Spooky Dawgs, an UGA Athletics event where kids come in Halloween costumes and played games with the athletes and learned the importance of being a good friend and went on hospital visits with The Georgia Way and visited the pediatrics section where she got to hand out goodie bags and meet young kids. She ran Girl Power Day along with Georgia soccer player, Ashley Anderson, where young at-risk girls from the community came to UGA for two hours and did games, team bonding exercises, and learned about how important it is to work hard in school and be active. Before the fifth graders at Barrow Elementary went on a field trip, her and teammate Elena Christofi prepared goodie bags for them to take and went over before they left to hand them out. Finally, she was a guest reader for Read Across America Week and went to Primrose School of Athens and read to a preschool class for the day.
Lesedi Jacobs • Kentucky
Redshirt Junior • Windhoek, Namibia
Lesedi Jacobs leads the Kentucky women's tennis team with 36 community service hours. Jacobs has touched many diverse organizations in the community, spreading her service across 14 different organizations. The team captain has donated the most time to Lexington's Habitat for Humanity, where she helped build a home. In addition to Habitat for Humanity, Jacobs has spent time with Special Olympics Kentucky, UK Athletics' charity of choice. Jacobs has participated in a handful of events where she has been able to interact with Kentucky Special Olympics children and adults in athletic settings, including helping the athletes play softball, teaching tennis drills and going bowling. Jacobs has also donated time to God's Pantry, Amachi Central Kentucky, Backpack Program and Read Across America.
Paris Corley • LSU
Senior • Grants, N.M.
Paris Corley volunteered countless hours at the "Knock-Knock" children's museum in Baton Rouge, helping children in the field of science, reading stories, and playing games. She also participated in the Halloween "Boozar" which helps underprivileged children with costumes, giving out candy, and hitting tennis balls. In addition, Paris spent numerous hours participating in the Holiday Food Drive for the LSU Food Pantry.
Anna Vrbenska • Ole Miss
Senior • Podebrady, Czech Republic
A senior leader for the Lady Rebels, Anna Vrbenska also serves as a member of the Rebels International Committee. She has participated in the campus-wide Thanksgiving Adopt-a-Basket event since her freshman year in 2016. Vrbenska also participates in A Hope to Dream, an event that helps provide mattresses and bedroom sets to Mississippi families in need, and the Trunk or Treat event held in late October, which provides treats and entertainment for families in the Oxford/ Lafayette area in lieu of the typical Halloween door-to-door tradition.
Sara Lizariturry • Mississippi State
Senior • Barcelona, Spain
Sara Lizariturry has been an active member in her community throughout her career. Most notably, Lizariturry served as the President of Bulldogs Care, a club made up of Mississippi State student-athletes dedicated to planning and executing events to serve the Starkville community. Lizariturry also spent time as a mentor at the Starkville Boys and Girls Club and has read to children at the library in downtown Starkville. She has also participated in the Pink Dawg Walk for breast cancer awareness, MLK day and Dawg Pack Day, where she helped pack gifts for the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program.
Marta Oliveira • Missouri
Junior • Lisbon, Portugal
Marta Oliveira has volunteered more than 43 hours of her time back to the Columbia community during her time on campus, including more than 10 hours during the 2019-20 academic year. This year alone, Oliveira has donated her time to Special Olympics Missouri, the Food Back, the Tiger Food for Friends/Food Recovery Network and as a volunteer coach for the youth. Additionally, Oliveira has also donated her time at local hospitals, Habitat for Humanity, Adapted Gymnastics, Mizzou Moves and the Inclusive Excellence Mile.
Silvia Chinellato • South Carolina
Senior • Como, Italy
During the 2019-20 academic year, Silvia Chinellato has been working with Heritage Christian Middle School in Lexington teaching tennis to its student and increasing their knowledge of athletics. She organized team and individual competitions and taught lessons designed to ensure students enjoyed a competitive environment while also learning to communicate with each other properly. In addition, Silvia participated in community services activities with the Meadowfield Elementary School in Columbia. She conducted student led conferences with kids. During these sessions, kids talked to her about their homework and their assignments and Silvia would help them in correcting their work. She was also able to create a comfortable environment in which to work and communicate with them in such a way that the children felt at ease talking with her. All the previous projects in which Silvia participated were strictly related to her interaction with people, primarily children. In these activities, Silvia volunteered mainly for the health of the community. She worked in the Sustainable Carolina Garden at Green Quad in University of South Carolina Housing. She picked up invasive weeds, divided plastic from paper trash for recycling purposes, and she worked in the greenhouse learning how to grow fruit and vegetables in a sustainable way, saving space and water. Silvia also participated in community service activities for the Salvation Army Family Store in Columbia. She volunteered to stock shelves, sort clothes and objects and price them before putting them out for sale. She also donated clothes, games and objects to the store.
Ariadna Riley • Tennessee
Senior • Macon, Ga.
Ariadna Riley has logged 157.5 hours of community service during her four years on Rocky Top, including 32 during the 2019-2020 school year. Riley spent the bulk of her community service time her senior year with the Lost Sheep Ministry, helping to feed the homeless. 14.5 community service hours this academic year have been recorded with the Lost Sheep Ministry. She also served as an SAAC Representative. Riley was also a VOLeader during the 2017-18 year. As a VOLeader, Riley traveled to Ecuador on a 10-day cultural exchange that provided leadership opportunities focused on community development and social change through sport. UT student-athletes selected for the program spend a year enrolled in courses to help understand their individual leadership style and learn about leadership principles, professionalism, critical thinking and cross-cultural communication through sports. During her 10-day stay in Ecuador, Riley logged 60 hours of community service.
Riley McQuaid • Texas A&M
Junior • Tustin, Calif.
Riley McQuaid has been a three-year member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and served as a Huddle Leader for Traditions Night in 2018 and 2019. McQuaid was selected to be a 1922 Fund representative for the 12th Man Foundation, finding a way to connect our student-athletes with individual supporters of Texas A&M Athletics. McQuaid and the women's tennis team were involved at an area elementary school on International Women and Girls in Sports Day. Last semester McQuiad participated in Game Night at an intermediate school in the area. One of 28 student-athletes across the SEC to participate in the SEC Career Tour last December.
Emma Kurtz • Vanderbilt
Senior • Atlanta, Ga.
Leading the team with 84 hours, Emma Kurtz has been a pillar in the community by participating in multiple events during her time as a Commodore. Kurtz is an avid volunteer at both Eakin and Buena Vista Elementary school where she is a tutor and has participated in fitness nights, field days, holiday parties, and tennis clinics throughout the years. In the city, Kurtz volunteers at the Nashville Rescue mission where she helps serve lunch and dinner to the homeless. Using her fluency in multiple languages, Kurtz dedicated her time to help host camps to teach Italian and English to refugees. Through the Vanderbilt Dance Marathon, Kurtz helped fundraise and volunteered at the big event to honor the miracle children. On a global scale, Kurtz helps collect shoes for those in need across the world by participating in shoe donation drives through Soles4Souls. This year will mark Kurtz's second-consecutive year on the Community Service Team.