America to Africa: Dedicated Service Changes Lives

McKay School student sponsors soccer team in Uganda

Andrew Lovell, a McKay School senior studying elementary education, has been changing lives of students halfway around the world.

In 2009, Lovell organized a soccer academy and team in Uganda through the organization HELP. He wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who would participate on the academy’s team, many of whom were homeless and orphaned. After Lovell left Uganda, though, he didn’t know how to continue to help these children.

Lovell credits one of his former professors for the inspiration to take on the challenge of continuing to support his academy’s team in Uganda. Dr. Jason Schmitt was Lovell’s communications professor at Oakland University in Michigan. “I had originally taken Professor Schmitt’s class because I needed to fulfill a general education requirement, but I left class with a new perspective on life,” said Lovell, who transferred to BYU from Oakland University. “I knew that I could make a difference in the world, and I also knew I wanted to be a teacher and give that same inspiration to others.”

Following Dr. Schmitt’s inspiration, Lovell turned what began as a one-time humanitarian trip to Uganda into an ongoing project. With the help of nine other students from Dr. Schmitt’s class, Lovell raised money to provide equipment for the program. They held a bottle drive, created a table display to raise funds and awareness, sold raffle tickets, fund-raised among friends and family, and connected with the Troy Youth Soccer team to increase donations.

As a result of the Oakland students’ efforts, the league in Uganda continues to grow. In 2010 the program expanded to accommodate a girl’s team. Now the team has matured into one of the best youth soccer teams in Uganda, according to Lovell. When the team was newly established, the children had the opportunity to play the second best youth soccer team in Uganda—and they won.

Lovell’s perspective of teaching and leadership has grown significantly through his interactions with Dr. Schmitt and his experiences in Uganda. He explained that his greatest learning is achieved when a friendship is formed with his professors. “Student learning is fostered and elevated when students feel a sense of duty to their good friend the teacher,” he said.

Lovell became friends with these children on the soccer team. After winning the game against the second best Ugandan youth team, he felt like a proud father; he expressed the joy he felt from serving these children. “I wanted to go to Uganda because I wanted to do service,” he said. “It was at that point I realized that there was something more to life than my own pursuit of happiness. It was giving to others.”

In addition to giving service abroad, Lovell is making a difference in his own community. Before returning as a full-time student this fall, he worked as a preschool and kindergarten substitute teacher and additionally as a summer camp teacher for grades first through fifth at a private school.

“I think that I decided to go into education because I can come home every day and know that I made a difference,” Lovell explained. “It’s a feeling that money can’t buy, which provides so much satisfaction. It’s not just giving service, but giving meaningful service."