It's cool, Proman says. But you don't do this for
Spend time with senior Mike Proman, and two things quickly become
First, he loves being an athlete, and treasures the effect sport has had on his
Although the Minneapolis-born placekicker was never a headliner for the football
team, he has taken the Jeffs through pivotal moments during his collegiate football
career. Last year for example, his 60-yard kickoff in the waning minutes of the
Tufts game floated to the Jumbo five-yard line, forcing Tufts to line up at its
own 20 after a hard-fought 15-yard return. You could argue that Promana
thesis-writing double major in Chinese, and law, jurisprudence and social thoughtsealed
the 14-10 win for Amherst in giving the celebrated 2001 defense ample breathing
room for the last two minutes of the game.
But second, and perhaps more importantly, Proman's influence on the team,
and on the Amherst community as a whole, extends far beyond his athletic ability.
In September, Proman was one of 11 playersthe only one from the NESCAC and
the first in Amherst historyfrom NCAA Divisions I-AA, II, III and the NAIA
named to the 11th Annual American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team.
The award, honoring college football players for their active roles in community
service, seemed to surprise Proman. It's cool, he said. But
you don't do this for the recognition. Proman is the founder of the
Amherst chapter of Change for Change, a philanthropic organization that gives
college students a way to donate to charity. Aptly named, Amherst's Change
for Change chapter encourages students to collect their loose change for seasonal
pickup by the college's varsity team members, and donates the total to a
local charity voted on by the student body.
Last year, Change for Change drummed up $5,000 for four local charities, and Proman
plans to improve on that goal this year. Senior women's ice hockey co-captain
Heidi Alexander, Change for Change's
liaison to the athletics department and a childhood friend of Proman's, explained
the impressively simple logistics: For the first collection we use fall
athletes; the second, winter athletes; the third, spring athletes; and the fourth,
club sport athletes, she said. And this year, we'd like to have
some of the campus music groups participate. Last year we had a great turnout
at each collection and the athletes really seemed to enjoy participating, knowing
that they were going to make a difference. Without the help of the athletes, this
program wouldn't be possible.
Community service at Amherst is nothing new. Students tend to be very aware of
the world around them, and the lineage of students putting in long volunteer hours
to better their communities is easy to trace. But one sector of the college population
has been traditionally absent from that equation. Athletes are under a lot
of time constraints, observed Proman. Amherst is such an active place,
and a huge percentage of the student body is made up of athletes. Because there
are so many active people here, it's tough to find volunteers. And college
students don't generally have the money to be able to write a check to a
charityand that's so depersonalized.
So, he continued, how do you make a meaningful contribution
given those constraints? Proman found the answer he was looking for during
his sophomore year in the work being done by his longtime friend Dana Hork. Then
a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, Hork had devised and implemented Change
for Change on her own campus during her sophomore year, with promising results.
The organization expanded to Amherst in the fall of 2001, Proman's junior
year. Together, the two chapters have raised more than $40,000 for 10 local groups.
Since Amherst is such a small school, we don't collect nearly as much
money as Penn does, conceded Heidi Alexander. But even so, the amount
of money that we donate is a substantial sum for charities in this area and they
appreciate it. Senior executive vice-president Nicole Sandoz recalled the
enthusiasm of the athletes for the program and their eagerness to help. Every
time we prepared for a new collection, I was always surprised by the number of
students who came out to support the program, she said. Athletes are
usually the busiest students on campus with academics, games, practices and all
of their other extracurricular activities, but they were willing to come out and
help us collect the money.
Proman continues to focus his last months in college on improving community service
at Amherst, most significantly within the eager-to-help but time-constrained athletic
community. My involvement with Change for Change won't stop when I
leave, said Proman. I'll always be involved. But I want to make
sure that there's a solid infrastructure in place at Amherst before I graduate.
He has also proved instrumental in planning other ways to promote and encourage
community service within the college's athletic community. Mike has
an amazing ability to bridge communities and get things done, said Tom Lepak,
assistant director of Community Outreach. Within days of approaching Mike
about a better link between Athletics and Outreach, he had a panel of student-athlete
leaders organized and ready to discuss how we can move ahead in getting athletes
involved with community work. We're eager to explore how to improve the experience
of Amherst athletes while making a substantive difference in the community.
Hork, the Penn student who founded Change for Change, echoed Lepak. She described
Proman as a phenomenal leader. He's extremely involved, and he wants
to give back to the community. It's obvious that he's been a leader
Throughout the evolution and fruition of Change for Change at Amherst, Proman
has continued to lend his efforts to several other community service initiatives,
both on and off campus. He is heavily involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of
Hampshire Countyhe was matched up with a little brother two years ago and
reports that the experience has been great. It's more fun than I could
even tell you about. Proman smiled as he described his little brother, proud
of both his charge and the mutual experience. I got him two years ago, when
he was 14 years old, he recounted. There are problems that he's
dealing with, but he's been great. He used to be really shy, but he's
opened up a lot. He's a lot of fun. And now he's 16I see him more
as a friend than I do as a little sib.
Off campus, Proman endured the 2001 Boston Marathon to support the Dana Farber
Cancer Research Fund. He successfully finished the race and is planning to run
again this year, raising at least $2,000 for cancer research. And during his time
at home in Minnesota, Proman is known to volunteer at Loaves and Fishes, a Minneapolis
soup kitchen. It's important to have that other dimension in your conscience,
Proman explained. Once you get off the Amherst campus, it's a different
Rebecca Binder '02
Photo: Frank Ward