Evan Parker is making quite a splash his senior year in high school. In addition to becoming the quarterback of Leesville’s undefeated football team, he has created the Student Athlete Leadership Initiative (SALI) to help student-athletes become more involved in the community.
“To narrow it down to three things, this program is designed to, 1) create a voice for the student-athletes in Wake County, 2) provide a platform to show what [student-athletes] can do off the field and 3) give back to the community with the hard work and teamwork we have developed on the field,” explained Parker.
After being denied induction into Sanderson’s National Honor’s Society because of lack of leadership, Parker, who captained many teams, was inspired to start a new initiative. He wanted to give athletes a prime opportunity to become more involved in something other than just their sports teams.
He said, “Students athletes do not have a lot of extra time on their hands, so SALI gives them an opportunity to give back.”
The initiative focuses on cultivating leadership in student-athletes on and off the field or court. “It sets up things such as tutoring programs, conferences, and workshops. Hopefully, as SALI progresses kids can start doing more at their own school,” said Parker.
The program is implemented in nine Wake County schools and YMCAs in the Raleigh area at this time. This feat was not easily accomplished. Parker had to propose his program at various places such as to athletic directors, Wake County, and CAP-8 meetings.
SALI was originally a nomination-only program, but it was modified to allow self nominations, meaning students are allowed to apply without being recommended for the program.
Parker has definitely proved to be a leader on the football field and hopes to transfer those strengths to things other than sports as well.
Malcolm Hitchcock, junior and Parker’s teammate, said, “He is like a coach really. He is really smart, sees the field before everyone else and makes corrections that no one else would see. Evan is the biggest leader on the team, both physically and mentally.”
In addition to building leadership, founding this program is a good opportunity for Parker to give himself experience in dealing with business leaders and organizations. Steve Young from the YMCA has served as Parker’s mentor and has been a huge help in getting SALI implemented.
“This initiative is supposed to be almost completely student-led. This gives students the opportunity to learn even more about leadership,” said Parker.
Student-athletes are often thought of as only athletes. However, SALI shows a different side of the stereotype, gives kids the chance to become leaders outside of sports and help their communities at the same time.
Nicole Park, senior and varsity women’s soccer player, said, “As a student athlete, it can be hard to balance your time sometimes. I think this initiative is a good idea that will just help student-athletes excel even more.”
Players and coaches of all sports alike seem to approve highly of Parker’s Student-Athlete Leadership Initiative.
“I think that kids becoming their own leaders would be a very good thing. It would help them become leaders in their particular sport and in all aspects of their lives,” said Jason Wyss, wrestling coach at Leesville.
For all his hard work, Parker has received a nomination for the Morehead Scholarship.
Parker said, “I wanted to start something to help the community. Something to show that we are more than just sports, more than just athletes.”