Student Athletes
Student Athletes
Somara Colon, Rachel Pawlak, and Alicia Contreras.

The benefits associated with Daemen College’s rise to NCAA Division II have been well documented, especially when it comes to on-field competition. Since moving to Division II, Daemen’s student-athletes have been involved with unique opportunities offered to NCAA student-athletes that have enhanced their experience outside the rigors of intercollegiate athletic competition.

Last spring, women’s basketball student-athlete Rachel Pawlak, ’17, a sport management major, became the first Daemen representative to attend the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum. Created in 1997, the forum has been a life-changing experience for nearly 5,000 student-athletes, providing the chance to grow personally and professionally while gaining a network of peers from collegiate athletics programs across the country. The four-day forum, held in Phoenix, Ariz., gives student-athletes like Pawlak the opportunity to return to their respective campuses with invaluable leadership skills and the experience of exploring the relationship between personal values, core beliefs and behavioral styles.

Pawlak submitted blog entries to about her experience.

“This weekend has been filled with powerful insight on leadership from the perspective of student-athletes, administrators, coaches and NCAA staff,” she wrote on the final day of the forum. “Some of my key takeaways include: leadership is a continuous process, one person can make a difference, we can achieve more as a group, and through adversity we can reach our full potential to positively influence those around us.”

Later in the spring, Pawlak was again afforded the opportunity to attend NCAA-sponsored programming. This time she was joined by fellow sport management majors Somara Colon, ’16, and volleyball student-athlete Alicia Contreras, ’18, at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum held at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. The event is an annual gathering of approximately 200 student-athletes who learn and observe about possible careers in sports, particularly in collegiate athletics. The motive is to help student-athletes outline their career paths, meet current athletics professionals, and build a network of professional colleagues and peers met throughout the forum.

ncaa-student-athlete-opps-wildcats-logoPawlak and Contreras were selected to attend after going through a rigorous application process. Colon was awarded the opportunity to attend as part of the NCAA Ethnic Minority Enhancement Program’s Postgraduate Scholarship for Careers in Athletics. She was one of only 13 recipients selected nationwide for postgraduate scholarships awarded by the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee.

Contreras was the featured blogger at for the Career in Sports Forum, saying, “I know I have a lot to work on during the next year to better myself, but I am not nearly as nervous as I was because of the reassurance the speaker gave us. It is alright to make mistakes, this is an industry where everyone is constantly learning and developing, and it is not the end of the world if you make mistakes. It only means that you are growing and maturing as a person.

Pawlak, Contreras and Colon are expected to be the first of many student-athletes from Daemen to take advantage of these new and exciting opportunities brought forth because of Daemen’s NCAA Division II membership. Stay tuned to for exciting news on the success of the college’s 16 intercollegiate athletics programs, and to learn how Daemen’s student-athletes are gaining experience to become the leaders of tomorrow.