Appreciating where you come from and giving back to that very same community is a theme often expressed by the College of Staten Island’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee.  A group of student-athletes spanning each of CSI’s intercollegiate programs who share their opinions and discuss concerns in the athletic department and who take part in community service activities, most recently put that mantra to use when they hosted a Halloween party for P.S. 44’s United Activities Unlimited After-School Program on Friday afternoon.

The thought of spreading the Halloween cheer was born when CSI SAAC got together for their monthly meeting in the beginning of September. Men’s basketball team member T.J. Tibbs and Intramural Assistant Ednita Lorenzo, both alums of P.S. 44 and the after-school program, proposed that their alma mater would be the perfect place to bring some community service to, in appreciation of the years they spent there.

From there, Lorenzo collaborated with Director Dr. Kim McLaughlin, P.S.44 Assistant Principal Robert Palumbo and after-school program director, Kevin Harris. By October, when all parties agreed, it was just in time for every kid’s favorite holiday, Halloween.

Soon, the entire SAAC group communed to put all of their ideas together and came up with various activities for the party. With the help of P.S. 44 and CSI SAAC funding, they were able to prepare crafts, goodie bags and decorations to make the experience a quality one for the younger students.

On Friday, October 28, twenty CSI athletes and staff dressed in costumes and decorated the school’s lunch room to welcome the after-school program in for some fun. The group of over 100 students entered the room with high energy to get the festivities underway. CSI Assistant Director Katie Arcuri was there to help run the show, “I was almost overwhelmed by their excitement but no sooner I noticed that everything was running smoothly and everyone in the room was having such a great time.”

At one station you could see CSI cross country runners being wrapped in toilet paper by giggling students who were dressing them as mummies for Halloween. At the next station some staff and softball players are turning students into zombies or cats with face painting. Another turn of the corner saw baseball, soccer and tennis stars helping the young ones make spiders with finger painting. In the background music filled the room as the P.S. 44 students dressed as pirates and superheroes taught one another and the athletes the newest dance moves. The afternoon ended with homemade cupcakes and goodie bags given out by the CSI crew.

Michael Gratkowski, a CSI cross country runner and swimmer, loved his experience at P.S. 44.  “I had as much fun as the kids did during the mummy wrap. You can tell the whole room was filled with positive vibes and good feelings and I can’t wait to be part of something like this again.”

Not only was the day about the painting and candy, it was about the future. “As soon as the kids came in the room they started hugging the athletes and I immediately remembered being in their shoes. You could tell right away how much these kids looked up to them just as I did to those before me” said Lorenzo, “The students were so engaging with each of the athletes, asking questions about their sport. Some of these students aren’t able to get involved in sports and hearing the athlete’s stories can give them a sense of hope.”

With basketball season underway, sophomore Tibbs was unable to make the festivities at the after-school program he attended for six years as a kid, but he plans to be there for future events. “The after-school staff were people who positively influenced who I am today,” noted Tibbs, “Activities like this are very important to kids in this area, all they really want is someone to talk to, hang out with and show that they care.”

Harris was inspired by CSI’s efforts, noting “The kids enjoyed every part of the afternoon’s activities. No future invitations are needed, our doors are always open to CSI Athletics and the SAAC Committee.”

The CSI SAAC and UAU plan to get together again soon for a sports clinic and holiday party in December.