By Katie Shpak, University Writer
Post University athletes engage in far more than academics and athletics; they take initiative to help others through community service as well as bringing awareness to mental health.
The Post University Athletics Department had representation from every athletic team, serving 2,361 hours of community service in 2019 (doubling the hours in the previous year). The athletes supported 22 local organizations including: American Cancer Association, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Autism Speaks, Social Chasers, Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut (BIAC), United Way of Greater Waterbury, Waterbury Chapter of Girls, Inc., St. Vincent DePaul’s Food Kitchen, Team IMPACT, Hidden Acres Farm, and Breast Cancer Awareness.
“We truly believe that learning in the classroom and athletic field is extremely important, but just as important as learning outside of the classroom and having some real-world experiences,” says Athletic Director Ronnie Palmer. This allows our student athletes to grow as people and professionals. Plus, this goes along with the NCAA’s “life in balance” motto.”
In addition to community service, the Post University Athletic Advisory Committee has launched a new chapter of Hope Happens Here Foundation, “a student-led movement that aims to promote mental health awareness and mental wellbeing on college campuses, in particular student-athletes.”
Post University has many resources available to assist our students with mental health, including the Counseling Center and the new YOU@Post webpage that is personalized for each student based on his or her needs. YOU@Post emphasizes individual well-being and self-awareness by offering tools and resources for exactly what individuals need to succeed, thrive, and matter. While both resources are open to all students, there are a large number of athletes that use and benefit from these assets.
Counseling Center Director Lisa Antel shares, “Over the last few years, the Counseling Center had been intentional in our focus on the well-being of our student athletes. Over half the students we see in one-on-one counseling are student athletes. We have worked closely with Athletics to develop mental health programs that increase awareness, normalize concerns, teach coping skills and promote prevention.”
The new chapter of HHH was launched during a home volleyball match last fall, and the awareness of mental health will continue to be highlighted during various sporting events each season.
“Mental health issues are something that are prevalent in all college students and student athletes,” says Palmer. “This is something that our student athletes want to spread awareness about and hope to create change through positive messaging by starting a conversation. “
Senior Rose Varrone of the women’s lacrosse team became a head of the HHH committee within the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC). She shares, “When this opportunity was brought up, I automatically wanted to participate. Within student athletes, there can be a lot of stress balancing out academics and sports. For some, this can become too much and starts to take a toll on mental health. Hope Happens Here is an outlet for me and shows athletes that it’s okay to struggle. There is always someone to support us and we should never be ashamed to ask for help. We are all in this together.”