Feb. 21, 2008
This feature is one of many that can be read on the Patriot League website throughout the month of February - a month the Patriot League designates to promote and highlight women in sports. The following story appeared in the Patriot League's Women in Sports magazine.
Visit the Patriot League's Celebrating Women in Sports webpage by clicking here. This page was launched last year and has been updated with some new items for 2008. The Celebrating Women in Sports webpage includes eight different links that will allow the user to read about the many accomplishments of the women in the Patriot League, while also serving to promote girls and women in sport. Highlights of this webpage are the Patriot League Celebrating Women in Sports magazine and photo gallery.
Summer Break: No Longer Just A Vacation
From the month of August until the month of May, Patriot League student-athletes have outstanding responsibilities to take care of both in the classroom and on the field of play. It is a rigorous period of nine or so months, and often can lead to a feeling of being "burned out" by the time the summer break rolls around. For many in this situation, however, the summer months are a time to experience new and exciting things or continue to hone their skills in their respective sport. Three female student-athletes, in particular, took the 2007 summer as a chance to experience a different part of the world.
For Bucknell volleyball standout Jenna Henderson, a psychology major, the chance to take a trip this past summer was the perfect opportunity. This was not your ordinary summer trip, however, as the senior from Elk Grove, Calif. joined a group of close to 20 of her fellow Bucknell students as a part of the Bucknell Brigade program that traveled to Nicaragua. As Henderson explains, the mission of the trip was two-fold.
"It's part Brigade and part class," she said. "We earned credit for being down there. It was a geography class where we learned about grassroots development. The other half of it was community service, which is what the Brigade does."
Henderson took part in community service projects that centered around working at a medical clinic. The group installed water tanks to purify water sources, and also educated residents of the surrounding communities on how to properly identify suitable drinking sources. After realizing how impoverished the Nicaraguan communities were once she experienced it first-hand, Henderson learned something that could not have been taught in a class back in Lewisburg, Pa.
"I didn't really think about how other people were living and how what we do can affect them, even just small things," she realized. "I didn't realize these people were in such poverty. It kind of made me realize how lucky I am. I feel like I have a responsibility to help since I am in a more fortunate situation."
The Bison volleyball program has certainly been fortunate to have a player of Henderson's caliber for the past four seasons. The 2006 and 2007 First-Team All-Patriot League and 2006 Patriot League Academic Honor Roll selection led the Bison in 2007 with 432 kills and 277 digs.
Colgate's Gretchen Polinski, a pre-medicine major, has had a solid career during her time in Hamilton, N.Y. She was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team in 2005-06, and finished fourth on the team in scoring and first in rebounds a season ago. So then why would someone who has found success in the frigid cold of upstate New York choose to travel to Ghana during the 2007 summer? If you guessed the heat, you would be wrong.
Polinski spent her summer vacation coaching basketball and teaching at an orphanage in Ghana for five weeks. It was an eye-opening experience that allowed her to work with children in a much different setting.
"The kids are great and they fall in love with you and can't wait for all of us to come back the next day," said the junior from Mansfield, Ohio. "In the afternoons I went to an orphanage where I taught children who either have no parents or are living in very poor situations and conditions. We worked in groups of two or three where we actually are the teachers. The kids we taught were great at math."
Although Polinski may be recognizable on Colgate's campus, she says that her time in Ghana made it hard for her to leave when the five weeks were done.
"One of the greatest experiences for me on this trip was
walking to the orphanage," she explained. "It is in a very poor part of the country, but as soon as you are walking through the streets and dirt yards, children run from all sides wanting to be picked up or hands held. They make you feel like the greatest people in the world. I told them I would write them when I go back and they were overjoyed that they would be receiving a letter. It broke my heart to leave."
Lafayette senior Michaela Donohue, an economics and business major and outside hitter on the volleyball team, took time away from College Hill during the spring semester and part of the summer to study abroad in Madrid, Spain. Donohue, who helped the Leopards earn their first playoff berth in 11 seasons last fall, used the opportunity to experience a different culture.
"[The opportunity] has been great because at Lafayette you can experience countries abroad and still play a Division I sport."
Donohue has been a stalwart on the court for the `Pards during her career. She ended her career first all-time in Patriot League history in career digs (1,610). For 2007, she averaged 3.73 digs per game and had 433 digs this season, which is a Lafayette season high. She was a
Second-Team All-Patriot League selection in '07, and was also named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll last fall for the first time
in her career.