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Athens native helps children succeed: How one UGA student stays engaged in the local community

Undergraduate student Tanderius Flint at Lay Park, where he attended camp as a child and also works summers helping with programing. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

By Hayley Major/UGA Today

For Tanderius Flint, a University of Georgia senior, being connected with the Athens community means more than just living and going to school here. It’s about investing in relationships with community members and caring about what impacts their lives.

Flint, who was born and raised in Clarke County, studies sport management at the Mary Frances Early College of Education. He grew up with big dreams and even bigger drive. As a student at Cedar Shoals High School, he visited UGA’s campus frequently, especially on game days. During his senior year, he applied to colleges across the state. He was accepted by many schools, but when it came time to make a commitment, the choice wasn’t hard.

“At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to come to UGA. I toured other campuses, but I didn’t feel at home like I did here,” he said.

Giving back

Flint’s love of sports and competitive spirit began at a young age. He spent many summers at Thomas Lay Park, making friends through football and basketball, before becoming a camp counselor in high school. And after enrolling at the university, he got involved with the Thomas Lay After-School program.

“For me, compassion is about having an open ear to what other people have to say and not judging them. I always try to teach that to the kids I work with while also encouraging them to stay focused and stay on track,” he said.

Founded in 2006 and sponsored by the Honors Program, the Thomas Lay After-School program connects UGA students with underserved elementary school students in Athens-Clarke County and surrounding areas. Prior to the pandemic, Flint volunteered as a mentor regularly, helping local students with their homework assignments and literacy skills. He played sports with them as well.

“Playing a sport teaches lessons that apply to more than just the game,” he said. “It teaches kids how to be strong leaders, how to work well with others and how hard work pays off.”

Setting an example

For Flint, who aspires to one day become a coach, mentoring is not just about teaching skills to students. It’s about providing a network of support and showing them what success can look like.

“It’s hard for some kids to take the path that I did growing up,” Flint said. “They might not have positive influences in their lives or access to the same opportunities. So I try to be a role model to them in the hopes that they’ll want to be role models to other kids.”

Flint’s positive influence came in the form of family.

“My mom is my biggest support system,” he said. “As a single parent, she’s always worked hard to provide for me and my sister, and she instilled that value in me.”

Staying engaged

Flint is always looking for new opportunities to make a difference. Last year, he volunteered with UGA’s Shop With A Bulldog program, a student-run nonprofit that partners with Clarke County schools to host an annual event where local students and UGA volunteers spend the day shopping, wrapping presents and enjoying holiday activities.

You don’t know what issues your community is facing or how significant they are unless you talk to people and get involved.” — Tanderius Flint

Flint and another mentor raised more than $100 to help a student from Alps Road Elementary School celebrate the holidays his way.

“It was a totally different experience,” Flint said. “It was fun and satisfying to be able to help him go shopping and pick out different things that he really liked, not just things he needed.”

Presents included a football, clothes, video games and a board game. For children from low-income families, programs like Shop With A Bulldog can have a big impact.

“He was so excited that he got to spend that much money on himself,” Flint said. “He had a smile on his face the whole day. That was the most rewarding part.”

In his young life, Flint has learned that what affects a community as a whole also affects its residents individually. That’s why it’s so important to stay informed and stay engaged.

“You don’t know what issues your community is facing or how significant they are unless you talk to people and get involved.”

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