BENNINGTON, Vt. – The Southern Vermont College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) was extremely successful during the Fall 2017 semester in facilitating multiple events to benefit communities of both near and far.
The SAAC—comprised of two representatives from each of the College’s 12 varsity athletics teams—was active throughout the term by organizing a clothing drive for Houston’s victims of Hurricane Harvey, facilitating a field day for local school children, participating in halftime basketball contests with the area Special Olympics group, and running a holiday toy drive in December. Additionally, the SAAC sponsored halftime contests for select home events during the fall to increase fan engagement.
Another focus of the SVC SAAC this year is to build the sense of community within the campus and among the athletics squads—the Mountaineer Cup being a way in which the group is trying to achieve that. Points are awarded to student-athletes for attendance at campus events, including other teams’ games, guest speakers, and activities facilitated by the Office of Student Engagement; the Cup will be awarded at the annual athletics banquet at the end of the spring semester to the team that has accumulated the most points. At the conclusion of the fall term, men’s soccer was leading the Mountaineer Cup standings with women’s soccer and women’s basketball sitting behind in second and third place, respectively.
“Seeing our student-athletes lead so many successful activities this semester has been a tremendous honor,” said Christin Gowan—SAAC Advisor and head coach of SVC’s women’s basketball program. “I am proud of their commitment to our community and their dedication to becoming well-rounded people… not just excellent athletes. I am excited to see what they accomplish in the upcoming semester as they grow as leaders in our department.”
Campus SAACs around the country, in all NCAA divisions, are established for a wide variety of reasons, some being: to promote communication between athletics administration and student-athletes, disseminate information, organize community service efforts, and promote a positive student-athlete image on campus.
SVC has SAAC representatives for the New England Collegiate Conference SAAC which discusses issues at the league level, and the Conference then sends delegates to the National SAAC which allows for student-athlete voices within the NCAA structure, solicits student-athlete responses to proposed legislation, and actively participates in the administrative process of athletic programs and the NCAA—among other functions.
Clothing Drive to Support Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts in Houston
The Southern Vermont SAAC wasted no time in getting to work after being established at the start of the fall semester. In early September, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged part of the Gulf Coast including the Houston metropolitan area, the Mountaineers organized a clothing drive to aid the United Way’s relief effort in the Lone Star State’s largest city. The SAAC was able to collect about 48 pounds of clothing which were then sent to the United Way to be distributed appropriately.
“The SAAC felt that it would be a good idea if we found a way to help the hurricane victims,” said men’s soccer junior captain Nikolas Joseph (Coventry, Conn.)—the Committee’s Vice President. “A lot of families lost everything, and we felt we had to do something to help.”
Seedlings Program Field Day
Before the leaves started to change and while the temperatures were still comfortable enough for shorts and t-shirts, the Southern Vermont SAAC invited the local Seedlings Program to the campus for an early-October afternoon filled with games and laughter. About 15 children from the nearby Bennington Elementary and Molly Stark Elementary schools played alongside the Mountaineers while learning about teamwork and participating with a positive attitude.
Seedlings provides a nurturing afterschool environment for children living in poverty in Bennington County. It works with students entering first grade through their transition into middle school and provides consistent programming to build academic and social skills, creativity, and resiliency through 1-on-1 academic tutoring and enrichment activities. Seedlings meets three times a week for an hour and a half each day.
Women’s soccer junior captain Molly Madore (Higganum, Conn.), Southern Vermont’s SAAC President, said, “It was a great experience to bond with the children who live in the community. Just seeing their faces light up when we played games with them was priceless!”
Special Olympics Halftime Games
In mid-November, the SAAC welcomed members of the local Special Olympics team to the Mountaineer Athletic Center for a chance to play basketball on the same parquet as the SVC athletes and in front of the Southern Vermont fans.
During an Opening Night hoops doubleheader with Fitchburg State University, the Special Olympics athletes were divided into two teams that were supplemented by Mountaineers. The two squads hit the court for about eight minutes of each of the evening’s halftime intermissions—knocking down shots to the applause and encouragement of those in the stands.
“The Special Olympics game was such a great event,” commented softball sophomore and SAAC Treasurer Carly Gillman (Stamford, Conn.). “Our SVC athletes were able to participate with the Special Olympic athletes in advance to prepare for the night. Everyone had such a great time doing passing drills, layup drills, and more. When we were done, everyone was so excited for the main event. Not only did all the athletes participating enjoy it, but the crowd loved it, too! It gave the Special Olympics athletes a time to shine, our SVC athletes a time to play with—and help—other athletes, and the crowd a fun game to watch!”
Holiday Toy Drive
Before the Mountaineers took off for the winter break, they set one more task for themselves which was again targeted at helping local children. The SAAC ran an internal toy drive—supplying new gifts themselves and urging their teammates to do the same. The drive supported the local Mount Anthony Union High School Senior Class which has annually run one of its own on a larger scale for over 10 years; the seniors work with local elementary schools by gathering and distributing items to families in need for Christmas and the holiday season.
Nominations for toys and clothing items are submitted to MAUHS, and the donations are then matched up as best as possible to what the children have asked for. The presents are wrapped and delivered to the parents who are then able to gift them onto to kids. Unsurprisingly, many of the items provided by the Southern Vermont SAAC were of an athletic nature.
“The toy drive was an unforgettable experience,” commented senior Paige Vitale (Port Jervis, N.Y.)—the SAAC’s Secretary and a representative from the women’s lacrosse program. “I appreciate the opportunity to go to a school that takes such pride in helping others, especially around the holiday season. SAAC did a tremendous job in collecting new toys to be gifted to families around the surrounding area and ensure the children got an opportunity to open presents. I believe this could be the beginning of an annual toy drive for families in the Bennington area.”
Mountaineer Cup Standings
1. Men’s Soccer
2. Women’s Soccer
3. Women’s Basketball
5. Women’s Volleyball
6. Men’s Basketball
7. Women’s Lacrosse
8. Men’s Cross Country
T-9. Women’s Cross Country
T-9. Outdoor Track & Field
T-9. Men’s Volleyball
– #LetsGoSVC –