NEW YORK—Sixty middle school students from the Explore Charter School in Brooklyn recently visited Columbia Athletics to tour the department’s facilities and participate in a panel discussion with several current Columbia senior student-athletes.


The eighth graders met with Columbia student-athletes Akua Obeng-Akrofi ’18CC (Women’s Track & Field), Natalie Neshat ’18CC (Women’s Soccer) and Lord Hyeamang ’18CC (Football). The student-athletes talked about their backgrounds, interests, what it is like to be a college student-athlete, and the importance of education and following their dreams. Towards the end of the panel, the student-athletes had the opportunity to answer questions from the group of students.


In the end, the visit was beneficial not only to the 60 visiting students, but Columbia’s student-athletes as well.


“It is always my hope that when I speak with young kids and they see how similar I am, they can begin to envision themselves where I am and beyond!” Obeng-Akofi said. “I really enjoyed talking with the youth. I feel it's mutually beneficial—they keep me young and I impart some ‘elderly knowledge.’”


“I enjoyed participating because I have valued sports at Columbia so much and hope to encourage others to pursue collegiate sports as well,” Neshat said. “It is also fun hearing the kids’ questions and comments during the panel, in addition to an overview of what stood out to them as the ‘take home points.’”


"It was really cool to be able to speak in front of a group of young kids and be able to tell them about my experience as a college student-athlete,” Hyeamang said. “It was also great to be able to give some advice and be able to give back to the community outside the walls of Columbia.”