James Island High senior Austin Pendergist searched the Internet for a way to land a college scholarship. What he found was a way to help others.
Pendergist came across a website titled DoSomething.org, a nonprofit organization that motivates young people with ideas to do community service projects that make an impact.
Pendergist, who plays football and track and field for the Trojans, was interested in a sports-equipment drive and talked to football coach Randy Hilyer about having the football team sponsor the event.
The coach agreed, and Pendergist posted fliers around the school, set up a bin for collections in the front office and did a Facebook campaign to solicit donations.
Pendergist spent weekends driving around and picking up donations of gently used sporting equipment from donors. The service project netted 300 items for the Joint Base Charleston Youth Sports Program, which is affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
"It was a lot of work, but what a great cause," Pendergist said. "I personally am blessed to have just about everything I ever wanted. I know that other kids are not nearly as lucky as I am, and I should do more to help those in need."
Pendergist collected baseballs, bats, golf clubs, footballs, football equipment, tennis rackets, fishing rods and many other items for the organization, which offers a wide array of organized sports activities for youth to help them develop desirable physical skills and to mature emotionally and socially.
The sports director, Robert Veronee, was impressed by Pendergist's actions.
"It was very unusual that he took it on his own to do this," Veronee said. "We do struggle to get equipment so when someone asks if we'll take it, we're not going to turn them down.
"A lot of times today, you get a kid who is an athlete and they don't want to do anything," Veronee said. "It's very rare to see something like what Austin did."
Pendergist also shines in the classroom. He entered his senior year with a 4.77 GPA and was ranked third in his class. He has been accepted to Baylor, Auburn and Clemson and received scholarship offers from Baylor and Clemson. On Wednesday, he traveled to Duke for an interview, and should know early next month if he's been accepted at the University of North Carolina.
"I really enjoyed playing sports," Pendergist said. "I liked the way sports taught me teamwork. But my parents always insisted that academics come first. They were right."
Hilyer, the football coach at James Island, said Pendergist is self-motivated.
"He asked for permission to do the project, but this was his baby," Hilyer said. "He did all the work, so he should get all the credit."
Reach Phil Bowman at 937-5592 or on Twitter at @pandcphil