Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Cross country student-athletes recognized as community heroes, continue to advocate for their beliefs, inspire others to help

Skyler Sharp
Graduate student Haftu Knight along with seniors Devin Hart and Rodger Rivera, led the pack at the Stormy Seas Opener on Sept. 1, 2023. All three crossed the finish line together at the end of the course.

The Hook ‘Em’s Community Heroes organization recognizes Texas student-athletes who strive to impact their community positively. Recently, two selections came from cross-country student-athletes Haftu Knight, a graduate student, and Kat Kwiatkowski, a sophomore. 

Knight and Kwiatkowski use their experiences to fuel their passion for helping their communities and the joy it fills those communities with.

“At the heart of community service, it’s the love from within and the love for our communities that really propels us to want to help each other,” Kwiatkowski said.

After experiencing homelessness as a kid, Knight connects deeply with relief services. Knight lived in Ethiopia until he was 14 years old. During this time, Knight lost his parents and lived on the streets for almost two years.

“It was a difficult time; it was tough,” Knight said. “I had work every day to make sure that I had something to eat and that there was a place that I could sleep.”

Coming to the United States changed a lot for him as he had opportunities that he never had in Ethiopia. His education and running career both changed positively after coming to the United States, but one thing did not change from his home country. 

“Coming here to Austin and going on a run every day, there are so many homeless people that you see on the streets, and it just hits home every time that you see them,” Knight said. “It’s really sad to see them sitting in the streets looking for scraps, and it just hurts your heart.”

Knight feels that, as humans, we should empathize with the pain and loneliness that homeless people suffer from not being supported. He wants to ease the struggles of those who suffer and give a supporting hand in any way he can.

“It’s hard to accept that as a society, we just see it happen and don’t do much for it,” Knight said. “That’s why I am very passionate about that.”

Kwiatkowski’s passion for change comes from her mother. Her mom emigrated from the Philippines, where she lived in an impoverished area with no reliable supplies where she and her community would hope to find relief together. Kwiatkowski uses her story to help communities like her mother’s.

Over the summer, Kwiaktkowksi had the opportunity through Texas Athletics to help a community in Panama through a program called Courts for Kids. She and other student-athletes spent over a week working alongside a local community called Mamoní Arriba to build a sports court for the local school. The volunteers spent the rest of their time bonding with the community while sharing and learning about each other’s culture. 

“It was just really beautiful,” Kwiatkowski said. “It reminded me of my mom’s hometown and the people there and all the love that they have for each other.”

Knight and Kwiatkowski both use their passions to continue finding ways to support their causes despite the busy schedule of a student-athlete. They agree that communities can always use more people who decide to help put back into their community.

“I think that anyone is capable as long as they have an open mind and heart and a willingness to learn and grow,” Kwiatkowski said.

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