Former Elk River star gives back to children and schools in central Illinois

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Gabi Haack is remembered in Elk River for her leading role on the 2016-17 Elks team that won the Class 4A state title. Haack may also be remembered for being named the 2017 Metro Player of the Year by Star Tribune. 

But Haack, who plays for Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, is more than a great basketball player. On Feb. 28, she was named one of 10 recipients of the Missouri Valley Conference’s Good Neighbor Award. The award is given to athletes who are in good academic standing and demonstrate good citizenship through good sportsmanship and significant community service. In addition to her community service, Haack has a cumulative GPA of 3.76 and has been named to the Bradley University Dean’s List four times, most recently for the Spring 2019 semester.

Since joining the Braves in 2017-18, Haack has been involved in more than half a dozen charities and organizations. Haack is an elementary education major. She used to play pretend teacher during the summer months. Her friends would be the students even though they didn’t like it. She knew at that age that she wanted to become a teacher.

She said community service in schools and organizations that help children and students is essential to her.

“It’s really important that I give back to the community and be a role model to those young kids in the schools,” Haack said. “I know [that] when I was a young kid and we had an athlete who was older come and talk to us and come to our school, it was a big deal to me. I looked up to them. To be able to do the same thing means a lot to me.”

Haack said she enjoys visiting lower-income schools.

“I like volunteering at the lower-income schools because it’s a lot different from where I grew up,” Haack said. “That’s eye-opening to me. I can be a role model to those kids because some of those kids don’t have role models to look up to at home. To go to those different types of schools is beneficial.” 

Like Haack, Bradley senior guard Ryan Wilkins takes community service seriously. Wilkins is majoring in nursing. Wilkins said both she and Haack have majors that require community outreach.

“I can definitely see how great of a teacher she’s going to be every day,” Wilkins said. “She’s always happy. She’s always caring and willing to help other people. Gabi’s always texting us, asking us if we want to volunteer with her at local schools to go and read or help them with their homework. She’s always reaching out to us to see who wants to help her out and who’s willing to go be with kids.”

Haack also participates in Girls Light Our Way. Girls Light Our Way is an organization of primarily African-American girls who work to better themselves through financial literacy, health and self-efficacy. Haack said education matters regardless of race or gender.

“I saw this opportunity as a good way to have an impact on cultures other than my own. It was also eye-opening for me. I learned a lot by talking to some of these girls. It’s important to get involved with people who may have different cultures than your own.” 

For Haack, community service isn’t a chore or something she dreads doing. She said that service enriches her life. 

“Every time we get involved in community service, I always feel good [afterwards],” she said. “We help [organizations] and whenever I’m there, I’m influenced by the people that we help. It’s a win-win for each party there.”

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