Nearly 40 Upper St. Clair High School football players stood along both sides of the long cafeteria table.
Plastic bag in hand, each one quickly proceeded down the line packing juice boxes, cereal bars, applesauce, single-serve pasta meals, goldfish crackers and other snacks.
In total, they created 250 bags of food that were distributed to students facing food insecurity in Pittsburgh’s neediest neighborhoods.
The community service project was conducted in cooperation with the local nonprofit, Feed Our Students.
Founded by USC graduate Steven Delvitto, the organization provides backpacks of food for children when school is not in session to ensure growth and nutrition.
Mike Junko, who coaches the football team, has made the importance of gratitude and giving back core lessons of his program.
“We are blessed to have the opportunity to play in front of our community on Friday nights in the fall and we want our players to know that they should use that platform to help change lives in their community,” he said.
“As they will one day leave USC it is our hope that they continue to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Juniors Jackson Howe and Tim Speer spearheaded the effort. They began the project as a result of the work they did in their social studies Capstone project.
“This project encouraged students to become engaged citizens through a series of project goals,” said Junko, who is also a member of the school’s social studies faculty.
“As members of the football team, the two boys decided to leverage the support of their fellow players to make a difference in the lives of young people in the Pittsburgh community that deal with food insecurity.”
Junko is proud of his student-athletes for taking the initiative to make something special happen.
“Inspired by their social studies teachers, these young men raised money for a great cause and helped to feed over 250 students,” he said.
“I often remind those outside of the walls of our school that our country’s future is bright. When they look at me with doubting faces, I am quick to tell them about the amazing young men and women that I get to work with that truly understand what it means to give back.”
Junko believes that USC student-athletes are in a position to make a difference in their community both now and in the future.
“Many of our players are blessed with great talent. Projects like Feed Our Students help to remind our students of the importance of being selfless and putting others first,” he said. “So much of our success on the field is centered on that very idea.”
The USC football program sponsors a summer football camp for the Miracle League of South Hills and helps the Children’s Miracle Network.
“Many of our players are in positions of leadership throughout the school and I’m often amazed at how much of their time and talent they are willing to share with others,” Junko said.