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Wooden It Be Nice?

Dec. 27, 2009

by Jon Cooper, Contributing Editor

ATLANTA — In Pete Seeger’s folk classic, “If I Had A Hammer,” he sings:

“I’d hammer out danger/I’d hammer out a warning/I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters/All over this land.”

Some 60 years after the tune was penned, Georgia Tech senior Alana Clooten is being recognized for her use of a hammer — the throwing kind — as a catalyst in getting involved in creating positive change during her career as a Yellow Jacket.

As a member of the track and field team, the Fairbanks, Alaska, native found a way to make an impact on The Flats by taking part in the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB). So far-reaching have been her efforts that she was named a semifinalist for the 2009 Wooden Citizenship Cup.

The Wooden Citizenship Cup is presented to the most outstanding role model among college and professional athletes, and has been won by the likes of Peyton Manning, John Smoltz, Andrea Jaeger, Cal Ripken, Jr., and John Lynch. Mia Hamm was the winner on the professional side.

“It’s a great honor,” said Clooten, who graduated with a 3.67 GPA in industrial engineering and expects to earn a master of science in health Systems (MSHS) in August. “It was kind of nice for all the hard work that I’ve done over the years to be recognized.”

Her work was hard to ignore.

For the last three and a half years she has been involved with SAAB, the voice of student-athletes on campus, and also a community service arm of the University. She’s been its president for the last year (her term runs through May).

“I’ve been on that board for about a year and I’ve been able to give my advice, my input on behalf of all the student-athletes and I’ve been able to see some change,” said Clooten. “It’s been really rewarding to be there, be the one that’s looked to for guidance on ways to better the student-athlete and being there while changes are made is kind of a good feeling.”

Being looked to for guidance and supplying the proper answers are traits Clooten has always embraced, especially for her teammates.

“Alana has been very important to our team, both in her huge contribution in her specialty — the throwing events, and in the area of leadership,” said track and field coach Alan Drosky. “She has been invaluable to our team in setting a very high standard as a complete student-athlete. Her success in the classroom and in the athletic arena, coupled with her involvement with her teammates and the community, gives our team a fantastic role model.”

Being a role model sounds cliché, but is something Clooten has always taken very seriously.

“Once you take a step back and look at yourself and how you act and so forth, you realize that you act as a role model,” she said. “But it’s not me going out trying to be the role model. It’s just me leading by example and doing what I think is right. That goes to showing up to practice early, making sure you put in the extra effort, not only on the track and in the weight room but in your relationships with your teammates, in your relationships with your coaches, even up to your relationships with your professors. It encompasses every aspect of who you are.”

“It’s very rewarding because you build these relationships with the underclassmen and whenever they’re going through problems, they know they can reach out to you because they see how you’re doing it. It’s a good feeling knowing that somebody wants to strive to act the way that you’re acting and you can be able to help them out with any troubles that they’re going through. That’s also very rewarding.”

Clooten is ready to find new rewarding experiences in the real world, having accepted a job with Accenture, an international consulting firm with which she interned last summer.

Before she goes, however, she’d like to help make a positive change in the quality of life for her peers. Among the improvements she’d like to see are in the tutoring system and methods that help prepare student-athletes for life after college in things like helping find jobs and improving interview skills.

She’d also like to make one last successful run with the track team during her final outdoor season.

“Last season I finished 22nd in the nation so the goal is to move up and to be All-American,” she said. “So we’ll see.”

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