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Community service projects and school visits are nothing new for senior C.J. Spencer since he invests countless hours each season volunteering and assisting local communities. However, his recent visit to Paso Verde School, an International Baccalaureate (candidate) elementary campus that is part of the Natomas Unified School District, was unique for a variety of reasons.
Before he arrived to UC Davis, Spencer attended various NUSD schools and graduated from Inderkum High School in 2014. In addition to sharing his elementary school experience, and highlighting PVS’ core principles throughout his presentations, his mere presence alone was proof that NUSD students can thrive in an academic and athletic environment throughout their elementary, junior high, high school years, and develop the skills needed to earn a degree.
Paso Verde School’s physical environment also provided a unique twist to Spencer’s appearance; the same facilities the Aggie quarterback visited last month once served as the home of a junior high school — one he attended before continuing his formal education across the 5 Freeway at IHS.
“Paso Verde School students from Transitional Kindergarten to 5th grade were excited to meet a scholar-athlete who graduated from Inderkum High School. They wanted to hear about his involvement in both high school and UC Davis,” said PVS founding principal Tonja Jarrell.
“Students were engaged by C.J.’s encouraging words and advice for balancing academics and athletics. After his visit, a parent reached out to say how excited her daughter was. That young scholar was so enthusiastic, she asked her mother to help her research colleges based on C.J.’s advice. It is this connection to college that makes visits from graduates so important to our community,” Jarrell added.
Spencer altered his presentation accordingly depending on the grade level he visited, but covered similar key points in every classroom: the importance of working hard, making positive choices, valuing education, finding things that interest you inside and out of the classroom, maintaining a quality balance of life, not being afraid to ask others for help and treating others with respect.
In each of his presentations, the Sacramento native also addressed a variety of topics in a question-and-answer session. It was this forum where Spencer described what college life is like (difficult at times, but enjoyable since he is studying something that interests him), what he enjoys the most about college (learning new things), challenges college students face (balancing academics, a personal life, and in his situation, football-specific responsibilities), why he decided to play football (enjoyed playing the sport, receiving a scholarship was a bonus), and what his favorite NFL team is (Oakland Raiders), which drew a wide range of responses from his audience.
But it was a question posed by a kindergarten student that provided the perfect snapshot of the afternoon for everyone. When asked why he wanted to visit PVS and talk to its scholars, the senior biochemistry and molecular biology major provided the perfect response.
“I am here today because I wish someone visited me when I was your age. I never thought about college, or had anyone talk to me about college. I would have loved someone to share their experiences and teach me what I know today.”
In addition to learning about a typical day in Spencer’s life —one that includes classes, studying, practices, weightlifting and conditioning workouts — he also explained how he balances his academic and athletic responsibilities, and still finds time to enjoy a typical college experience.
“It is important to maintain a healthy life. Balancing school, sports and time spent with family and friends helps me manage stress, not feel overwhelmed, and still have fun,” said Spencer.
Spencer and his teammates will return to action on Aug. 30 when UC Davis visits San José State in its 2018 season opener. The following week (Sept. 8), San Diego will visit Aggie Stadium for the program’s home opener — the first of five events taking place on campus this fall.
Two weeks after the Toreros visit Davis, football will host Idaho for the first time in school history in its Sept. 22 Big Sky opener. Other home games taking place include conference matchups versus Idaho State (Oct. 13), Northern Arizona (Nov. 3) and Sacramento State (Nov. 17).
Launched during the 2017-18 academic year, the Aggie EVO System is UC Davis Athletics’ investment in the primary mission of preparing student-athletes for a successful “launch” after graduation. Thanks to a collaboration of alumni, university resources, corporate partners, coaches and Student-Athlete Outcomes staff, all Aggies are guided over four years to acquire the skills, knowledge, opportunities and tools to better know and navigate the “World of Work” after graduating from UC Davis. Follow the Aggie EVO system on Twitter and Instagram at @AggieEVO.
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ABOUT UC DAVIS
Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley.
The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation, according to the Wall Street Journal, offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation's best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.