BROOKLYN, N.Y. — St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn) Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members junior Victoria Mahoney (softball) and sophomore Gemar Lezeau (men's soccer) were recently selected by the NCAA to attend the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
You may have followed their journey as they took over our Snapchat and Instagram accounts, but here's what the memorable experience was like in their own words and photos.
Victoria Mahoney, Softball
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. as one of 285 student-athletes, coaches, faculty members, and administrators who attended the 2017 Student-Athlete Leadership Forum. It was an empowering experience which left me with the confidence in myself that I am able to make a difference with my actions on a day to day basis on and off my campus. Among the endless topics we discussed were core values, strengths, weaknesses, social justices, conflict resolution, effective communication, and emotional intelligence. And while each topic was one I had been previously familiar with, my groups' facilitators addressed each in such a unique way it provided a very different perspective than I had ever before considered and provided a comfortable, welcoming platform for discussion among those in my group. During these discussions, I realized that different issues which I previously thought were unique to my own campus are in reality occurring on campuses nationwide no matter what division or conference they may be a part of. It was truly inspiring to be able to discuss these issues with not only the student-athlete perspective but with the perspective of coaches and administrators.
While the learning process in itself was amazing, it was eye-opening to take part in such a large community service project which to assist in packing "blessing bags" for the homeless youth and young adults in the Washington D.C. area. The task was to pack 2,500 "blessing bags" in a matter of 25 minutes, we were divided up into four groups (each group had to complete 625 bags) and were told that it was "not a race" but as the student-athletes that we all are, our true competitive nature came out and we took this as a serious competition. Each blessing bag included a pair of gloves, a hat, a pair of socks, a blanket, a chapstick, a reusable water bottle, a pair of hand warmers, a package of baby wipes, a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste, and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Many of these everyday items I found that myself along with others in my group tend to take for granted on any given day. But these items for those who find themselves homeless in the D.C. area during these brutal winter months were the difference of survival.
Before boarding the train from New York Penn Station to Union Station in Washington D.C. I was not quite sure what to expect but it turned out to be a truly an unforgettable and life-altering weekend more inspiring than I could have ever imagined it to be. It was amazing to see the energy and effort that the NCAA puts into ensuring a high-quality experience for collegiate student-athletes nationwide, no matter their background or division. Learning about the NCAA governance structures including how the various committees work and make membership decisions was also a very interesting process to learn about which many student-athletes do not get a chance to gain knowledge about. The experience inspired me to live and lead in an authentic manner while challenging and pushing myself beyond my existing comfort zones. I am beyond grateful for this transformational opportunity from the NCAA and St. Joseph's College. I feel honored to have had the chance to experience this life-changing event and I consider myself blessed for interacting with everyone whom I met and will never forget the impact they have made in my life. I hope that many more student-athletes are given the opportunity to experience this forum.
Gemar Lezeau, Men's Soccer
Heading into the 2017 NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum, I was expecting to be in a bunch of lectures with a bunch of prominent executives and speakers and tons of student-athletes dressed to impress. I was quickly proven wrong upon arrival to the Gaylord National Convention Center. Greeted by other student-athletes in relaxing athletic wear, I could already feel the presence of a good environment. Coaches had begun to come out and introduce themselves to the room and play games with the other student-athletes as well as we all waited for the opening ceremony to begin. From the enthusiastic and entertaining introduction received from the Pac 12 Associate Commissioner, I knew we were all in for a fun weekend. All the attendees of the forum were divided into distinct color groups and it was in these groups the most learning was received.
Sitting in that room with other athletes, coaches, and administrators was intimidating at first but after the ice was broken, the temperament of the room raised tremendously. Each and every person in my group brought so many different viewpoints, beliefs, and personalities to the discussions and it really enlightened all of us. To see the different ways schools and conferences go about different issues and how we were able to all come together and create solutions as a whole that we can all bring back to our respective campuses was incredible. I learned a lot and was able to see things from more than just a student-athlete perspective but from an administrative and leadership standpoint. I took away from this trip that leadership isn't easy, nor can it be duplicated from one person to the next. Leadership must be unique and individualized and in your leadership, you must take a stand in what you truly believe in but be understanding of others, a concept known as a growth mindset. I took a lot from that weekend that was more than just learning about leadership. I was able to make bonds with people and create new friendships and networks for my future and I plan to do my best to keep in touch with as many people as I can. I would definitely recommend the Forum to another student as it was overall a great experience and one you truly won't be able to forget.