2012 Massachusetts Student Athlete Citizenship Ceremony

April 26, 2012

By Jessy Segall, Youth Leadership Academy Co-op

“Courage is being able to do the right thing, even though everyone around you may be saying ‘I don’t know if we should…’” – Brigadier General Paul G. Smith (Assistant Adjutant General – Army, Massachusetts National Guard)

On Tuesday, April 24th numerous student athletes from around Massachusetts gathered at the Curry Student Center ballroom for a day of recognition and celebration. The event started early in the morning as 25 different schools started piling into the ballroom with their student athletes.

Bill Gaine, the deputy director of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) opened up the event by being the first speaker and welcoming and thanking everybody for attending the event. Dan Lebowitz, the executive director of Sport in Society, followed suit with an inspirational introduction.

Dan introduced Eileen Curran, a news reporter for the New England Cable News. Her speech was incredible –highlighting how being part of the swim team at her school helped her daughter become more social and confident. Being a part of the swim team changed her daughter in ways that she could never have imagined, and she discussed how proud she was of that.

General Paul G. Smith spoke after Eileen Curran, discussing what it means to be a leader, and how to learn when and when not to step in. He summarized important characteristics of a leader with the 5 C’s::

  1. Commitment
  2. Courage
  3. Communication
  4. Compassion
  5. Confidence

These are characteristics a true leader needs to have. The commitment to what they are doing, the courage to stand up for what they believe in (even when no one else is next to them), good communication skills to interact with any and everybody, compassion and empathy to understand what others are going through, and the confidence to know that they can accomplish their dreams and help others do the same.

Another important part of his speech was that the student athletes, as leaders, need to be able to properly understand that people may not be as strong as we need them to be. This could be because of several different things, such as what’s going on at home, past experiences, etc. We need to gain that understanding and help them based off that.

Following General Smith was a panel discussion with four student athletes. Shannon Sholds from Pope John High School, Katelyn Richardson from Wilmington High School, and Kyra Pellant and Emily Nonnamaker from Notre Dame Academy.. The students discussed how student athletes can make a difference in the community, and each gave their personal opinion on how student-athletes have power, and how they use their power is up to them. They can use their power to get people involved with community service and to minimize bullying.

Sport in Society’s own Justine Siegal, director of sports partnerships delivered the keynote address. Justine spoke about the challenges she had to overcome on her path to becoming the first woman to pitch at spring training in the MLB. Through all the naysayers and roadblocks, she kept fighting because she was that determined and her love for the sport was too strong for her to give up. The event came to a conclusion by recognizing each of the student athletes for their achievements.