Drexel women’s basketball forward Jackie Schluth in action against William & Mary. Courtesy of Drexel Athletics.
Jackie Schluth has had a long time to soak in the Drexel Athletics experience.
After injuries stole two of her seasons as a forward on Drexel’s women’s basketball team, Schluth has been able to benefit from two redshirt years, making the 2015–16 season her sixth. The opportunity she’s been given has not been lost on her.
“Being here for as long as I have, I’ve come to learn the behind-the-scenes stuff in the Athletics Department,” Schluth said. “That’s what pointed me in the direction of sports management and that’s something I would not have thought of if things had panned out differently.”
Originally arriving at Drexel with the intent to study marketing, Schluth’s experience swayed her to what she believes will be her true calling, managing game day operations in college sports.
Experiences like Schluth’s are what Drexel Athletics hopes to facilitate. And with the creation of the Dragon Challenge: Support Your Sport fund drive, interested donors can help provide the money necessary to support the unique, family-like experience of students who play varsity sports at Drexel.
“I believe that Drexel Athletics often creates a lasting identity for our student-athletes,” said Eric Zillmer, PsyD, Drexel’s director of athletics. “By representing Drexel on the fields of friendly strife, our student-athletes learn how to manage risks, engage in teamwork, become leaders and forge friendships that last a lifetime.”
Throughout the 2015–16 season, with an extra push during Homecoming the week of Jan. 25, Drexel Athletics is running a fundraising campaign that asks athletic boosters — parents, students, alumni and fans of the game — to support student-athletes. The sports with the most enthusiastic supporters will be rewarded with matching gifts.
Past Chair of the Board of Trustees and President Emeritus, Chuck Pennoni, Chair of the Board of Trustees Richard Greenawalt and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Stan Silverman, all Drexel alumni, are generously sponsoring the challenge and will donate to Drexel Athletics to award the sports that meet the following criteria: The sport that attracts the highest number of donors overall will receive $15,000, the sport with the largest dollar total of gifts will receive $10,000, and the sport with the highest percentage of current and former student gifts will receive $5,000. With those goals set, every gift, no matter the size, will count for each sport.
The Dragon Challenge: Support Your Sport launched in September and will continue through June 30.
Gifts from the drive will support students following in the footsteps of alumni like Caterina Carafides.
Carafides is the perfect example of what Drexel Athletics hopes to provide. She played midfield for Drexel women’s lacrosse from 2003 to 2006 and relished her time in Drexel blue and gold.
“As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I immediately had a friend group of 20-plus girls who knew what I was going through every day. My freshman roommate — with whom I roomed all four years at Drexel — was also my teammate, so it was great to have someone who knew what getting up at 6 a.m. for practice, then going to class, then going to lift in the afternoon felt like,” said Carafides, now a dentist in Wilmington, Delaware. “We also had our older teammates looking out for us. The majority of us are still friends today who get together on a regular basis.”
Carl Ray had a similar experience on the men’s side of lacrosse. He graduated in 2006 after playing crease defense for the Dragons.
“We had good connections with most of the sports,” said Ray, who is now an account manager for Tate Engineering. “We saw each other all the time: In class, working out and socially. We all worked hard, had struggles and triumphs and, collectively, we understood what other athletes were going through. It was a fun time.”
“Family” was a word that consistently came up when Schluth talked about being a part of the women’s basketball team and Drexel Athletics as a whole.
“The camaraderie is something I’ll take with me,” she said. “Everyone is on a first-name basis. The connection and the closeness of the whole department is amazing.”
“Seeing student-athletes act as a family is a very gratifying part of working in Drexel Athletics,” Zillmer said. “I know that our student-athletes have learned a valuable life skill when they start caring more about each other than about themselves.”
Arguably the most important part of the athletics program at Drexel is its mission to provide academic opportunities for the student-athletes.
Ray felt his experience as a student-athlete gave him an edge in getting a job after his academic career ended.
“It made me organized and it made me more marketable,” Ray recalled.
Balancing class, practices and games, Carafides’ time was precious while she was at Drexel. As a result, she learned to use it effectively.
“It helped give me a clear path to stay on during college, because I knew that I wanted to not only be successful in lacrosse but that I also had to work a little harder for the life goals I planned to achieve,” Carafides said. “Everyone in the Athletic Department really wanted us all to succeed on and off the field.”
Schluth summed it up.
“Sometimes, athletes get a bad reputation about not caring as much about the academics side,” she said. “But you don’t have that here. At Drexel, especially, you’re an academic first and an athlete second.
Winners of a Drexel Club sport can win in one of the following categories:
- Largest total # of donors - $15,000
- Largest total $ raised - $10,000
- Largest % of gifts from that sport’s alumni and current student-athletes - $5,000
All new gifts and commitments including gifts pledge payments and new pledges will be included.
For more information visit the Drexel Athletic Club info page.