Over the summer, Adam Diggs, a Maryville College senior majoring in finance and accounting along with a minor in history, found himself with an idea he hoped would leave a significant mark. A football player himself, Diggs was trying to figure out how he could help and positively impact current and future students, so he came up with a unique concept involving pairing students with host families.
“The goal is I was trying to figure out was how to leave an impact or a legacy. What can I do on the football team to help the younger guys starting now? Then when I leave MC, what’s something I can do to help? So, I was praying through that and I got this crazy idea. . . what if we had people in the community from churches come and be host families for MC students? They could stay with them through their four years, so they have a mentor and kind of a home away from home,” explains Diggs.
Initially, he proposed this idea at Fairview United Methodist Church, where it was received very well. The church added it to the bulletin and on their website. Six families signed up instantly, and there 14 families participating through this church alone. Diggs then went to other churches: Pine Grove Baptist Church, Foothills Church, and Kagley’s Chapel Baptist Church. Through all four, there are a total of 34 families taking part in this initiative.
“My ultimate goal is to assign two athletes per one family so there’s some existing familiarity between the students. Right now, we’re just doing the entire freshman and sophomore class of the football team,” adds Diggs.
He hopes for the entire football team to be able to participate by next year, then other sports could be added as the program grows. Diggs has even spoken to Dr. Anne McKee, campus minister, about the possibility of eventually offering the program across campus, a bit more of a challenge but not too far-fetched.
“What I’ve seen in my four years, especially for the guys from far away and in football, is a lower retention rate. Some leave after their first semester of their first year, and it seems to be due to a lack of involvement in extracurricular activities besides football and school,” Diggs states.
He continues with the idea that a struggle often occurs during the transition between high school and college without any type of support system, which is where the host families come in.
Diggs’ overall hope is for the families to serve as support, mentors, and encouragement for the students, while creating a more solid network for them to engage in. Because the program is giving the churches this new opportunity, the exchange is beneficial to the larger local community as well. Many of the churches were previously unsure about how to get more involved with Maryville College students in such a way.
“Even if it’s only 6 families from one church, that’s 12 kids that they’re getting to love on at Maryville College. It gives them a chance to show the love of Jesus to these guys, so it’s mutually beneficial,” provides Diggs.
Though this is year one of the program, Fellowship of Christian Athletes of Blount County has partnered with Diggs to provide even more support and encouragement overall.
Proving to be a very successful idea and a win for everyone involved, Diggs’ concept aims to create a positive community from student to host families though local churches regardless of any differences between them.
Diggs already knows of a few players who have even let him know things are going well. They’re building relationships, and many are doing things such as going out to lunch with their families.