Feb. 6, 2002
The students who attend St. Casimir Elementary School in Albany's Arbor Hill district have no gym-that is, until last spring. Each Wednesday, numerous student-athletes at Siena, primarily members of the athletic department's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), volunteer their lunch period to serve as counselors, and in turn, role models to students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade in Siena's Marcelle Athletic Complex.
The program is one of the many community initiatives set forth by Jim Snyder, the Director of the College's mentoring program. In conjunction with Brother Michael Harlan Director of Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, Athletic Academic Advisor Michelle Bronner and most importantly, the members of SAAC, the program was set in motion last March.
"The student-athletes have always been very excited about getting involved with the community, but their demanding schedules often make this desire an impossibility," Bronner said. "When the idea of bringing the students of St. Casmir to Siena was suggested to our student-athletes, the response was overwhelmingly positive, and the involvement has been excellent."
While it may seem convenient to volunteer at Siena, the many student-athletes who give their time are often sacrificing the only free period they have during the entire day. The life of a student-athlete involves early morning strength training, classes, practice and studying. It requires great discipline and time management to make it through as it is- let alone volunteer the little free time available, and excel in the classroom as most of these students do.
"It is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything," junior Justin Knoff, a pitcher on Siena's MAAC Champion baseball team whose GPA has been nearly perfect for four semesters, declares between exercises. "These kids don't have a gym. If we can take an hour out of our time to help them, and maybe give them something to look forward to, it's worth it."
It is the last part of Knoff's comments that could be the most important to the success of the program. Cheryl Stienhorst, a second grade teacher at Arbor Hill, feels the true value of the experience lies in its association with the College. "The kids love coming here and always are asking when we will come back. She says, "To me the most important factor is that they are now familiar with the term "college"-it gives them something to shoot for." Stienhorst also indicated that several Siena students are actively involved with St. Casimir's after school program, giving their time each day.
During the hour-long period, activities range from basketball to duck-duck-GOOSE, and often leave all involved exhausted. "I get as much of a workout here as I do in class," senior Mary Buckheit proclaims. "It is so much fun though, and absolutely worth while when you see the looks on the kids' faces."
Basketball players Sherron Burgess and Dale Taylor agree. "It would have been great to have college kids around when we were in school. Hopefully, the students will see that college is a cool thing to do and aspire to get here someday."