Amherst, N.Y. - Community engagement initiatives are an important part of being a student-athlete at Daemen College, as they are for a lot of colleges and universities across the country. Daemen has specific community engagement programs for student-athletes to participate in, and the athletics department tracks the number of hours that student-athletes spend volunteering for various causes as part of a nationwide competition to see which NCAA Division II athletics program spends the most amount of time giving back to their community. The real success, though, lies in the impact that community service can make on the student-athletes themselves; it gives them a feeling of purpose, one that can lend itself to initiating their own service projects that may not count towards volunteering competitions, but are impactful in their communities nonetheless. Daemen College women's volleyball student-athlete Cristina Apostol is one of those community service success stories.
Apostol, a sport management major who will enter her junior season with the Wildcats this fall, was moved by her experience last spring while volunteering for Daemen's Center for Allied and Unified Sport and Exercise (CAUSE) initiative that provides competitive and recreational athletic opportunities to individuals with disabilities. The CAUSE program, which has already garnered attention from the East Coast Conference and NCAA Division II for the impact it's having on the community, gave Apostol an appreciation for how much she can do for others.
"Being involved with the CAUSE program changed my perspective on many things, but one really struck me. I'm happiest when I am able to help and give back to others," Apostol said via email from her home in Bucharest, Romania. "I think it was a matter of making others feel good about themselves. CAUSE gave me this chance to make others happy and proud of who they are."
It was that realization that led Apostol to pursue volunteer work while home on summer break. After some initial struggles, including clearing governmental hurdles that block Romanians from volunteering for periods less than six months, Apostol found an avenue to concentrate her efforts. She spent several Sundays this summer volunteering at a local school where she worked with under-privileged children.
"The children all come from tough backgrounds, barely have enough financial resources to finish high school, and most sadly, most live in an environment that does not encourage them to raise the bar through knowledge," Apostol said. "The other volunteers and I would go to their school and spend a couple of hours with them reading, painting, doing math and all sorts of school activities. The kids were rewarded with a bike after reading 10 books, and this way the competition was tough but meaningful. Some of them had a low level of reading even though they were in fifth or sixth grade. However, every one of them was aware that every page read and every book finished made them more powerful."
The impact being made in the lives of these children is not lost on Apostol. In today's day and age where negativity rules the airwaves, we can all benefit by having a similar outlook as Apostol.
"Even though I didn't spend a lot of time with these kids, they made me clearly understand that I'm good at empowering people and giving them hope," she said. "And if this is what I have to do to make this world a little better and a little happier, then let me tell you I have already boarded on this journey. I love to see people happy and content. I love to clap when they succeed. That's just who I am."
Provided by the Daemen Sports Information Department.