Daemen College student-athlete Cristina Apostol, a native of Romania, embodies community service—dedicated, focused, and engaged in the well-being of her community. She took that dedication all the way to her hometown of Bucharest, where during summer break she volunteered with underprivileged children in the nation’s capital.
Apostol’s inspiration to volunteer well beyond the Buffalo Niagara region started last spring when she volunteered with Daemen’s Center for Allied and Unified Sport and Exercise (CAUSE), an initiative that provides competitive and recreational athletic opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Launched in 2017, the CAUSE program has already garnered attention from the East Coast Conference and NCAA Division II for the impact it is having on the community.
“Being involved with the CAUSE program changed my perspective on many things, but one thing really struck me—I’m happiest when I am able to help and give back to others,” said Apostol, a business administration/sport management major. “CAUSE gave me the chance to make others happy and to help them be 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, she found an avenue to concentrate her efforts. She spent several Sundays last summer volunteering at a local school where she worked with under- privileged youngsters.
“The children came from tough backgrounds, barely had enough financial resources to finish high school, and lived in an environment that does not encourage them to raise the bar through knowledge,” said Apostol. “I would go to their school and spend a couple of hours with them reading, painting, studying math, and doing all sorts of school activities.”
Apostol added: “The kids were rewarded with a bike after reading 10 books. Some of them had a low level of reading even though they were in fifth or sixth grade. However, the children were aware that every page read and every book finished made them more powerful.”
The positive impact of her volunteer efforts on the lives of these children is not lost on Apostol, a 6-foot-2 junior on the Wildcats women’s volleyball team.
“After spending the summer with these kids, I realized that I’m capable of empowering people and giving them hope,” she said. “And if this is what I have to do to make the world a little better and happier, then I have already started on that journey. I love to see people happy and content and to see them succeed.”
Community engagement initiatives are an important part of being a Daemen student-athlete. Daemen Athletics offers community engagement programs specifically for student-athletes and tracks the number of hours that student-athletes spend volunteering for various causes.
“The real success is in the effect that community service has on student-athletes and providing them experiences that give them a sense of purpose and fulfillment,” said Traci Murphy, director of athletics. “Like we’ve seen with Cristina, these experiences can be transformational, and it leads to student-athletes who are passionate about giving back and sharing the things they’ve been so fortunate to learn here at Daemen.”