Swimmer Sakura Hamazaki ’21 saw the need for a volunteer network to help fellow student-athletes discover opportunities at Geneseo. So she created one.
By Brett Ford
On the field, on the court, in the pool, on horseback or on the track, Geneseo student-athletes juggle numerous team responsibilities with the rigors of challenging academics. Hours spent balancing sport and study time can divert student-athletes from the paths of their peers.
With finite time, student-athletes might miss some opportunities, but it’s the mission of the Geneseo Student-Athlete Resource Center (SARC) to change that.
Sakura Hamazaki ’21 — a member of Geneseo women’s swimming and diving team — developed the SARC because she noticed a lack of student-athlete representation at different campus programming opportunities.
“I wanted to create a space where student-athletes could get a variety of information regarding the resources afforded to them,” says Hamazaki, “that would help them make the most of their Geneseo experience.”
Hamazaki collaborated with Assistant Dean of Students for Leadership and Service Nick Palumbo, Assistant Athletic Director Jessica Seren and Director of Athletics and Recreation Mike Mooney to create the SARC in the fall of 2019. “Sakura’s leadership and initiative are what led to this endeavor,” says Mooney. “She saw the big picture and pushed for this opportunity to benefit all student-athletes, present and future. Sakura has made quite an impact for this department.”
Student-athlete mentors guide other student-athletes who come to the center in the Merritt Athletic Center to get involved with career development, prepare for opportunities to study abroad, volunteer in the community, participate in leadership programming, or access health and academic services. They also help guide younger student-athletes as they transition into the college lifestyle.
“I started to go (to the SARC) as a place to study because it was a great, quiet environment for me to work,” says Kimberly MacDonald ’22, a member of the women’s swimming and diving team. “I began working with a student-athlete mentor on more efficient study strategies and was offered one-on-one study sessions before exams. I felt like I wasn’t alone as I navigated college courses for the first time.”
SARC staff has grown from just 10 student-athlete mentors in 2019-2020 to 26 for 2020-2021, including several new mentors who utilized the center’s services a year ago. What began as Hamazaki’s idea has developed into a network of leaders, striving to improve themselves and support each other. New this year, the student-athlete mentors have each been assigned a group of first-year student-athletes and will meet with them throughout the course of the year to assist in their college transition, help them develop successful study habits and guide them to available resources.
“The Student-Athlete Resource Center has significantly improved my student-athlete experience and has flourished into a successful space for a lot of people,” says Hamazaki. “I am so excited and proud of what the program has accomplished so far to benefit our student-athletes.”