Sept. 30, 2009
By Brendan Corsones
Since 2003, thanks to the generosity of Dave Bossy, a two-time Notre Dame monogram winner in hockey, the University of Notre Dame has searched for a new generation of role models among its top athletes and recognized them with the Dave Bossy Scholarship. The recognition acknowledges those who have retained a serious commitment to community service while still excelling in their athletic endeavors.
This year's crop of deserving winners includes Charlie Nejedly, a student manager, and Irish distance runners Beth Tacl, Lindsey Ferguson, and Spencer Carter. These student-athletes each demonstrate how to act if athletes want to be considered role models.
Many college students will tell you that the best time of day is spent with nothing to do, and this is a luxury that athletes rarely enjoy. Caught in a cycle of classes, practice, homework, and sleep, it seems that for athletes to serve others there simply aren't enough hours in the day. This limitation, however, has not stopped the Dave Bossy honorees, particularly Beth Tacl, who is a two-time recipient of the grant.
To earn her second distinction, Tacl volunteered at Fresh Start Surgical Gifts in Carlsbad, Calif. Tacl, who is in the science pre-professional studies program at Notre Dame, relished the opportunity both to learn the field and help the program in any way she could.
"They (Fresh Start Surgical Gifts) provide free reconstructive surgery for kids," Tacl says. "It was about half domestic and half international." The St. Cloud, Minn., native hopes to someday become a surgeon, and she describes her time spent there as invaluable.
Two summers ago, Tacl spent what could have been her months of rest working at the Holy Cross Ministries in Utah with former Irish teammate and Dave Bossy recipient Heidi Rocha. Her time there involved working with the Mexican immigrant children. She describes her service as "a half summer school, half summer camp. We worked with them with their reading and phonics." Tacl worked extensively with the children to improve their reading, while also finding the time to play sports. "We did science and art projects and took them swimming and hiking," Tacl says.
Motivated by her desire to help others, Tacl is more than happy to sacrifice her summer for the good of others. "I really love doing service. Every service opportunity I've ever had I've really enjoyed and taken a lot away from it. It's really a treat to be able to spend my summer doing that."
This is a common theme from all the scholarship recipients, a willingness to make sacrifices in order to help those in need. Serving as another prime example of this mindset is Spencer Carter of the Notre Dame cross-country and track team, who spent the past summer backpacking for the Missoula Youth Homes in Missoula, Mont. Carter worked in the program's Inner Roads section, in which he spent 30 days hiking a 110-mile loop with five at-risk youths, giving them therapy and the advice they needed to lead productive lives.
Although Carter's time with the children undoubtedly helped them, he describes the experience as beneficial to himself as well,
"Service has always been a big part of my life," Carter says. "I wanted to have an opportunity to share the knowledge that I've gained from my life, but I also wanted to learn from them. I wanted to gain a different perspective, which I found very helpful."
Spencer doled out wisdom for the kids, telling them, "every day is a new day, and no matter what you did yesterday you can make tomorrow better."
Equipped with his advice, Spencer ultimately credits the kids for making any improvements. "In the end, the therapy doesn't fix the kids, the kids fix themselves. That was most rewarding, seeing that people have the ability to change themselves."
Lindsey Ferguson, a senior psychology major from Greenfield Center, N.Y., dedicated her summer to the Bridge Project in Denver, Colo. The service project served as a summer school and camp for lower income children ages 6-12.
"My jobs there included helping children with reading and writing," Ferguson says. "They also learned technology, which was really cool because I never did that." Her inspiration to serve comes from the progress she could see from her students and the impact she could have on the kids' lives. She described the last day as "a going away party.
"When they heard I wasn't going to be there anymore they all gave me a hug, and seeing the difference I could make in their lives meant so much to me, and they really progressed in their education."
Ferguson's time there helped her as well, as she hopes to pursue a career in education. She took away lessons that will benefit her in the classroom for many years.
"One person can do so much, and that's been my attitude for teaching. If I can change one student's life that will be reward enough," Ferguson says.
The Dave Bossy Scholarship recognizes those who go above and beyond the call of duty and truly dedicate themselves to a service project. So for every new headline about a prominent athlete being convicted of another crime, know that there are role models on our athletic fields closer than most of us think, and they all deserve to be honored.