The following story, written by Jeff Shearer, was originally posted on auburntigers.com.
AUBURN, Ala. - The setting was virtual, but for the four Auburn student-athletes who attended the 2021 Black Student-Athlete Summit, the benefits were tangible.
"It was life-changing," said Auburn track and field's Keira McCarrell.
"A great experience," said high jumper Dontavious Hill.
The three-day BSA Summit took place via videoconference Jan. 6 to Jan. 8 and was titled, "Woke! Now What?"
Many of the speakers were former collegiate student-athletes, making them relatable to Auburn's delegation.
"You've played more sports behind you than you are going to have ahead of you," said McCarrell, relaying a quote that stood out from the summit about the need to form an identity that extends beyond athletics.
"The most insightful thing for me was seeing people who look like me in all different types of professions relaying what they've learned to further us after we've finished our athletic careers," said Auburn soccer's Kori Locksley.
During the social unrest of 2020, Auburn's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee created a diversity and equity subcommittee, which McCarrell leads.
"My biggest takeaway from the summit was having a plethora of ideas and resources and a network of people who will help me grow my committee," she said.
Speaker Jen Fry's emphasis on mental health made an impression on Auburn's student-athletes.
"How important it is to kill that stigma that you're weak if you go to therapy," Locksley said. "In the Black community, there's a stigma that we don't ask for help, we don't seek help, we just try to deal with it on our own. It was nice that she's spreading the message that you're strong to even go to therapy."
"It's not easy to deal with all of the situations that are going on in the country and then continue to balance sports and academics," said track and field student-athlete David Edmondson. "That session really touched me. To be successful, manage everything and shine, our mind has to be in the right state."
A former University of Texas football player, Chase Moore, encouraged attendees to consider studying abroad, and to leverage campus resources to build their brands, even if they're not stars on their teams.
"Some of us don't get to perform when and where we want to but it doesn't mean we can't make use of the opportunity to build a brand through Auburn," Edmondson said.
Hill, a mechanical engineering major from Mobile, plans to implement the information he acquired at the summit with the underclassmen he mentors.
"I have leadership skills and I try to grow every day to continue to become a better leader to be there for my teammates," he said.
LSU professor Dr. Lori Martin's session resonated with McCarrell.
"How to keep your composure as a Black woman and deal with stereotypes and microagressions," said McCarrell, who aspires to be a speech language pathologist in the education system in minority communities. "At LSU, she changed how they viewed being a mentor and an ally to some of the things Black student-athletes are going through, especially during a time like COVID and the unrest of last summer."
The Auburn student-athletes encourage their younger teammates to attend future summits.
"Every Black student-athlete should want to go or learn about it," Locksley said. "It was an amazing summit, even though it was virtual. It was empowering to be around so many other student-athletes of color in one setting. It would be an amazing experience for every athlete."
"How to enhance our institution to become more appreciative of Black people and all that's been happening to them," said Edmondson, who's from Jamaica. "To hopefully enhance not only the Black people in the institution, but the institution as a whole, to make it better overall.
"It's an amazing opportunity. I would go again and again. I don't think I could replace it with any other experience I've had in college so far."