Students reach out through sports, exercise
East Carolina University students are reaching out to youth and senior adults through a newly founded ECU student organization called MUVE (Motivating and Uplifting via Exercise).
LaBarron Burwell, a health fitness specialist major in the College of Health and Human Performance, and psychology major Joshua Epps co-founded MUVE in October. The two friends were seeking a way to help others through exercise instruction, mentorship and leadership activities.
Now 25 members strong, MUVE meets weekly on campus and conducts outreach programs with community organizations including athletic teams, after-school programs and assisted living centers. At each event, MUVE members are paired one-on-one with a child or a senior adult, with a goal of providing needs-based activities designed to motivate and inspire.
Junior communication major Victoria Loveless has been a member of MUVE since its inception. She said serving others in the community gives her a sense of satisfaction. “It doesn’t seem like service,” she said.
Epps said he finds joy in interacting with others through MUVE. “At the end of an event, when I know I’ve reached someone, I am satisfied,” he said. “It is my passion.”
Best friends since second grade, Burwell and Epps recalled the critical positive influence of their high school football coaches. They put their heads together to create an ECU organization that would have a similar effect.
Burwell grew up in a single-parent family, moved around a lot, lived in public housing and was briefly homeless. As a ninth grader, he joined the J.F. Webb High School football team in Oxford. After Burwell played one year in a defensive position, the coaches offered him a quarterback position for the next season.
Surprised, Burwell asked the coaches why they selected him over several seniors who were already playing offense. They said the decision was based on Burwell’s work ethic and history of making good decisions on the field. The coaches said they trusted Burwell to lead the team.
That trust gave Burwell the confidence to take on additional leadership positions, such as senior class president. But athletics had the biggest impact on his life, he said.
“Sports build a bond,” Burwell said, adding that exercise is something everyone needs. He said that MUVE participants benefit from team building exercises, physical conditioning, games, music and fun.
“Our goal is to create an environment where participants feel comfortable and realize their opinion matters,” he said. They are “given a chance to speak, to ask questions without fear of judgment and to discuss goal setting.”
The group’s activities this month included a Valentine’s Day dance and geriatric aerobic exercise event at Sterling House Assisted Living Center in Greenville and an activities program for students in grades 1-5 at Kenansville Elementary School in Duplin County.
In an earlier visit to James Sprunt Community College, MUVE worked with 125 middle and high school students participating in a program designed to help at-risk students achieve their academic potential. The program coordinator Felita Carr described MUVE’s visit as an overwhelming success.
“The students are still talking about that day and the experiences they had,” Carr said. The group engaged students and parents and “left them wanting for more.” Carr plans to invite the MUVE group back for another session this spring.
When Burwell was seeking members to join MUVE, he often asked fellow students, “Would you like to help others? Would you like to prevent them from making the same mistakes you made?”
That, he said, is what MUVE does.
Community organizations wishing to arrange a visit from the MUVE organization may make a request at firstname.lastname@example.org.