March 9, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Community service hours is a number that is all but impossible to find when looking up an athlete’s impact.
That’s too bad because Georgia Tech sophomore Alex Grady, a member of the track and field and cross country teams, might lead the nation in the number of community service hours performed. Then, again, getting publicity for working in the community surrounding Georgia Tech isn’t what Grady has ever been about. He’s performed more than 200 hours since arriving on the Flats because it’s what he does, he feels he’s supposed to do.
“Community service has been a big factor in my life throughout high school and now in college and I just find that helping others is very, very important,” said the Gulfport, Miss., native, who attended Newton High School in Covington, Ga. “I came from a pretty big high school but not many kids saw college as an option, especially Georgia Tech. I obtained the Gates Millenium Scholarship coming into college and they really pushed community service to be a huge factor.”
Grady’s commitment to the community was recognized on March 6, when he was one of eight student-athletes nationwide to receive the Haier Achievement Award, by Haier America, a leading television and appliance manufacturer, and CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) for accomplishments beyond sports. Haier will donate $2,000 to Georgia Tech’s general scholarship fund and award a 48-inch LED HD TV to the school’s athletic department.
Eight (8) student-athletes who have been recognized this year for success beyond sports are finalists for the inaugural Haier Ultimate Achievement Award which is presented to deserving student-athletes by Haier America and the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), will be determined by an online vote through April 3rd at achieve.haieramerica.com.
Alex hit the ground running upon his arrival in Atlanta. As a freshman, Grady was one of six Georgia Tech student-athletes to receive the ACC Top Six for Service Award in 2014. He’s a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), has worked with Tech student-athletes at the Special Olympics, on the annual Michael Isenhour Toy Drive, and the “Thank-a-Thon,” done in concert with the Alexander-Tharp Fund, in which student-athletes reached out to donors to thank them for their support. In addition, he’s put in more than 60 hours helping out students of Peachtree Academy in Conyers, Ga., with their essays in the scholarship application process.
For Grady, dedicating his time to all these causes is as much a part of the curriculum as training for and running with track and cross country and, pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
“Coming out of high school I promised myself that I would continue to do as much community service as I possibly could,” Grady said. “Having a direct link with my local community, the schools around me, I knew that I wanted to help and make sure that others had as equal an opportunity to get into colleges and be able to obtain scholarships like myself. I didn’t want others to fall to the wayside because I’ve seen that much too often. So I find it imperative to make time for others and make sure that I can give back because people have given back to me.”
Truly selfless, Grady had no idea he even was being nominated for the Haier Award.
“I just did the community service. I had no idea I was signing up or I had applied for this award,” he said. “I had given the Athletic Association the number of hours I had completed just as part of protocol because they want to see the progress of each team and how they do community service-wise. Georgia Tech Athletics has a big push on getting out there and influencing the community and doing the best we can for that. I was just following protocol for the most part and it just so happened to fall into place.”
Alex feels that his athletics are catching up with his community service and academic excellence. He had a solid freshman cross country season, including a third-place finish at the Florida Mountain Dew Invitational, running a career-best 25:07 in the 8K event. He also ran a 25:21 in the ACCs and finished fifth for Tech in that year’s NCAA South Regional. While he admittedly struggled during the 2015 Indoor track season, some of which he attributed to getting acclimated to competing indoors, he’s optimistic about the `15 Outdoor season, which begins on March 20 with the Alabama Relays, in Tuscaloosa.
“I’m very excited. It’s bringing back a lot of memories because I did outdoor my high school years,” said Grady, who began distance-running in middle school. “I’m not quite sure what I’m good at so just being able to figure out what my niche is, as opposed to what I can compete in outdoor season, whether it be 3K Steeple, or 5K or maybe even the 10K, just seeing where I can be utilized the most would be great. I’m really hoping to throw down some great personal bests and hopefully be an impact to the team come ACC time.”
In the meantime, Grady, who has found long-distance running as a relaxing outlet and also likes to draw in what spare time he does have (for a look at his drawings and more info. on him, visit his website, alex-grady.com), will continue to embrace his responsibility as a role model, to his younger brother, Louis, as well as to kids in Covington.
He’s found he’s been welcomed back with open arms.
“When I’m not in college, during break, I go back to my old high school and I’ll hear whispers of, `There’s so and so,'” he said. “I’m getting calls from people on my old county board just congratulating me and asking for interviews so that they can have a spotlight in the newsletter, things of that nature. I’ve had old teachers say how proud they are to be a part of such a great thing, being able to teach me. Just across the board I’m getting a lot of good feedback. I would definitely see myself as a role model of the community that I am a part of.”
He’s grateful for the opportunity to give back and influence the next generation.
“The fact that myself as an individual can make a difference in the lives of others, I find that giving back to my local community, the community that raised me, where I grew up, was huge,” he said. “To get others to see the same things that I did. The fact that college is an option. The fact that they can get scholarships to pay for school and they don’t have to worry about debt later on.
“Just to come to Georgia Tech and see the atmosphere, see all these people willing and able. I really wanted to get as involved as possible in other events, like the Toy Drive and things of that nature just so that I can leave my mark here just as much as I have in my own community.”
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