On Sept. 29th, over 20 Siena Men’s Lacrosse alumni gathered at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City in support of Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership. This annual event raises both financial support and awareness for a worthy cause.
“We are proud to support Harlem Lacrosse and its efforts to impact the boys and girls of Harlem and the other cities they serve,” said Siena Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach John Svec.
Harlem Lacrosse’s mission is to empower the children who are most at risk for academic decline and dropout to rise above their challenges and reach their full potential. Harlem Lacrosse inspires children to dream about tomorrow while working hard on the field and in the classroom today.
"Siena Lacrosse has been a big part of the growth of Harlem Lacrosse,” stated Siena Lacrosse alum Chris Baldwin ‘85. “The consistent support from Coach Svec, his players and the alumni group has been extraordinary. The commitment of the program to HL was evident this year in New York City as more than 25 current and former alumni attended the HL gala. With Coach Svec's support and Richie Hurley leading one of the largest HL schools in New York, the future of Siena's involvement in HL is very bright."
Harlem Lacrosse was an idea after Co-Founder Simon Cataldo joined the faculty of Frederick Douglass Academy I (FDA) in Harlem as a Special Education math teach in 2008. Cataldo introduced lacrosse as a way to engage his most academically and behaviorally challenged students. With only 11 students and 10 sticks, the team took the field. Cataldo learned that by coaching, encouraging and motivating students on the field, he was able to accomplish great things with them in the classroom. At the end of the school year, Cataldo’s players posted the highest scores on the state math test by Special Education students in FDA’s history.
In 2011, Harlem Lacrosse was formed to create a holistic youth services organization around the idea that what students need to reach their full potential is to be immersed in an activity they take pride in, led a caring mentor, tutor and coach who can help them build confidence and skill sets on the field and in the classroom.
“I was first exposed to Harlem Lacrosse during my junior year at Siena, when a group from the FDA traveled to campus for our “Faceoff for a Cause” event,” noted Siena alum and Harlem Lacrosse Program Director Richie Hurley ‘15. “These student athletes from Harlem were passionate, polite and well coached. They had this contagious sense of positive energy about them. It was impossible to not fall in love with the program. I was hired by Harlem Lacrosse upon graduation from Siena. I started up at FDA in the Fall of 2015 and have since taken over my own program at P.S. 149 The Sojourner Truth School in Fall of 2016.”
Harlem Lacrosse has added at least one program each year and now operates 11 programs in New York, Baltimore and Boston serving over 450 boys and girls at FSA, P.S. 149 , the Sojourner Truth School, P.S. 76 A. Phillip Randolph, Promise Academy II and the Commodore John Rodgers School. Harlem Lacrosse students have maintained a 100% on-time middle school graduation rate, have passed their classes at a rate 20% higher than that of their peers at our school sites and have earned over $15 million scholarship offers to independent schools and colleges.
“The support from the Siena Alumni network at our Annual Harlem Lacrosse benefit is incredible,” Hurley said. “We are consistently the largest group of ticket-holders at each year’s event. This year we had at least 30 attendees with ties to Siena Lacrosse. I am so proud and humbled by the involvement of the Siena lacrosse family and their dedication to the success of the students at Harlem Lacrosse. A special thanks to Peter Ruggiero, Chris Baldwin and John D’Argenio who have helped me throughout my journey with Harlem Lacrosse and continue to give back to the program any chance they can.”