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The Driver’s Seat: Service with a smile for volleyball’s Clark

The Driver’s Seat: Service with a smile for volleyball’s Clark

ARLINGTON, Va. - Graham Clark grew up in suburban Chicago and during high school he volunteered his time at local soup kitchen through his church.

Now the Marymount men's volleyball player is helping out at a soup kitchen in the nation's capital, and leading some of his teammates to help him in the effort.

During the spring semester earlier this year Clark, a 6-foot-7 junior middle blocker, and junior outside hitter Connor Choate made several trips to So Others Might Eat (SOME) on O Street in northwest Washington.

That meant leaving campus at about 5:45 a.m., for the trip into Washington to help serve breakfast and getting back to Marymount for 10 a.m., classes if need be.

"It is something Graham is passionate about," said Hudson Bates, the MU men's head volleyball coach.

That group has expanded this semester as Clark has been joined by several other teammates, including junior Jordan Pawlicki, on regular visits to SOME.

"It is in incredible to see how much you can help someone by laughing or serving breakfast and serving coffee and seeing them smile," said Clark, a club teammate with Pawlicki in Illinois.

SOME served more than 384,000 meals in 2015, according to its website.

"SOME is an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the poor and homeless of our nation's capital," according to its website. "We meet the immediate daily needs of the people we serve with food, clothing, and health care. We help break the cycle of homelessness by offering services, such as affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment, and counseling, to the poor, the elderly and individuals with mental illness. Each day, SOME is restoring hope and dignity one person at a time. We invite you to join us."

The time at SOME is well spent according to Bates, who is preparing for his fourth season with the Saints.  A former standout at George Mason University in Fairfax, Bates has placed an added emphasis on leadership in his program – on and off the court.

"One our philosophies that started from last year is to be a leader through service," Bates said. "Naturally people think of community service as a way to do it. We want to be out there and try to help the community a little bit more."

"We want to develop leaders; one way is leading through service," Bates added. "We are trying some different things this year. Our captains and our leaders come to practice early and set up the net and get the floor ready."

Bates said Clark, a political science major, has become a leader for the program.

"He has developed good leadership skills," Bates said. "He has always been one of the more vocal guys on the team."

And Clark has been deemed a leader by his teammates, who vote on such roles.

Clark was an all-conference and all-area player in high school and led his team in kills, blocks and aces as a senior. He holds the record for games started, kills, highest hitting percentage and blocks at Wheaton North High near Chicago.

He also lettered in football and basketball and played volleyball at the club level for Sports Performance VBC, a nationally-renowned program.

Some members of the MU team have also spent time with special needs students at Joyce Kilmer Middle School in Vienna. Some team members have bought food for a homeless person on Glebe Road in Arlington while Tomasz Ksiazkiewicz, a senior middle blocker from Poland, has given sandwiches to those on the street in downtown Washington.

That service got a push start from Clark.

"What I tried to explain to coach is when we serve the community and serve others it should not be forced upon us," said the outgoing Clark said. "I feel I am really good about being a positive leader."

 

Editor's note: David Driver is a special consultant to the MU athletic department. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com 

 

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