(Editor's Note: The Why Wheaton series will aim to document many alumnae/i and current student-athletes' stories throughout each month in an attempt to share why our past and present student-athletes have chosen to attend Wheaton. The goal of this series, which will be a mix of in-depth articles, quick highlights, videos and feature stories, is to showcase the amount of opportunities we have here at Wheaton. Hope you enjoy the stories.)
NORTON, Mass. – The mission of Wheaton College is to provide a transformative liberal arts education for intellectually curious students in a collaborative, academically vibrant residential community that values a diverse world. What Wheaton College also does is provide a bevy of opportunities for its students during their time at the college. We recently caught up with former women's swimming and diving student-athlete Dana Auger '13 (Milford, Mass./Milford) for a question-and-answer session about her involvement with the program, Project Coach.
Wheaton Athletics: Why did you choose Wheaton College for your undergraduate school and what did you study while you attended?
Auger: I chose Wheaton College for it's education licensure program and its wealth of options for other courses of study. I knew I wanted to attend a liberal arts college just in case I were to discover that I did not enjoy the education course of study. I was pretty confident that I would like to gain a teaching license out of undergrad, and Wheaton offers a wonderful program in which I could do that. For that reason, I found Wheaton to be at the top of my choices for colleges to attend. In my four years at Wheaton College, I was a psychology major and an early education minor in the licensure program.
Wheaton Athletics: What was your experience at Wheaton like? What were you involved in on and off campus while you were an undergraduate student here?
Auger: While at Wheaton, I quickly fell in love with the one aspect of the school I thought I would dislike most; its size. The small size of of the school turned out to be the best part of my Wheaton experience. I benefited academically from getting to know my professors on a personal level, and having small class sizes. Professors at Wheaton get to know you as a learner, and therefore can tailor their teaching style to benefit the class as a whole.
While on campus, I was a member of the swim team for all four years. Being a part of that team is my most exciting and precious memory from Wheaton. I immediately felt a part of a group when I arrived on campus my freshman year, and strived to make incoming freshmen in the following years feel the same way.
During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I was connected through Wheaton to the director of the M.I.A.A. to be a facilitator for the New England Student Leadership Conference. There, I trained alongside fellow collegiate students, adults and coaches to teach high school students who were selected as good leaders in their school's sports programs to attend this conference. The conference, which happens annually across the nation, was centered around teaching the values of interscholastic athletic participation and what makes a good leader on and off the field.
Wheaton also provided me with the wonderful opportunity to spend time abroad as a Robert College Fellow the summer between my junior and senior years. While in Turkey, I was a counselor at a program for Turkish children looking to strengthen their English speaking skills in a social and unique way. Instead of holding summer school for these kids, we played games like soccer, lacrosse, and basketball, and created theatrical plays and artwork together throughout the summer. The entire program was conducted in English, so the children were learning the language while having an incredibly fun and engaging summer. This experience was wonderfully beneficial for me to practice some teaching skills while also being able to tour the amazing city of Istanbul for a summer.
Wheaton Athletics: What was your favorite memory of the swimming and diving program at Wheaton?
Auger: One of my favorite memories every year on the swim team would have to be the training trip we took as a team during every winter break. For a little over a week, we would travel somewhere warm to train really hard twice a day in the pool. To some, this probably doesn't sound exciting at all, but there was one part of this trip that always stuck out to me. During the trip, where we were together all day, every day, working hard and pushing one another to achieve new goals; the team transformed. Each year, this was the time in the season that the team united and supported each other more than ever. We pushed each other to new limits, and developed a sense of team; stronger than we had started the year off with. This happened every year. Coming back from the training trip was as if we came back as a new team. We were stronger, closer, better, and more focused than we were when we left for the training trip. It was the turning point in the season, and the meets to follow were always the best ones, even though physically, they were the toughest.
Wheaton Athletics: What have you been up to since graduation?
After graduation, I had applied to many teaching jobs, public and private, around Massachusetts. I ended up accepting a teaching job at a CA Montessori Children's Center in Framingham, Mass. I worked within the toddler classroom as an assistant Montessori teacher. After about six months, I was beginning to realize that age group was not what I wanted to teach on a long term basis. As I started to search for potential new jobs, I received an email from Wheaton's education department about job openings and possible fellowship opportunities linked to a master's program. It was in that email I found the Project Coach Fellowship connected to the M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) program at Smith College. The fellowship was described as becoming a life mentor for inner city high school kids from Springfield, who I would also mentor to coach elementary age kids in their school district in sports like soccer, volleyball, basketball, and ultimate frisbee. I had been toying with the idea of getting my master's soon, and I knew I would like to coach sometime later in my life. I decided to apply, and four months later I was accepted into Smith College for grad school and also as a fellow for Project Coach. I began school in July, and Project Coach started up for the season in early September.
Wheaton Athletics: Can you talk about what you have been doing with Project Coach?
Project Coach is a non-profit program that works to bridge the economic, educational, and social divisions facing Springfield youth by empowering teens to coach and mentor elementary school children. As a fellow in Project Coach, I work with six other graduate students who are each responsible for about six students ranging from 7th grade to 12th grade. It is my responsibility to develop a relationship with each student, help them stay on track academically, become a mentor and friend, and overall motivate them to succeed in a world that may not look achievable to them at the given moment. Fellows along with college students (who were once teens within Project Coach, but have now successfully made it to college,) teach the teens how to coach common sports to elementary age students during an after school program two days a week. Youth sports programs that many of us took for granted as children are not widely available to the youth of Springfield for many reasons including lack of funding and lack of adult volunteers. In Project Coach, we believe that youth sports programs help develop important skills like accountability, responsibility and cooperation that can transfer into the classroom. We work hard to make the transfer happens for our teens and our elementary students. Through the program the teens are also given the opportunity to be tutored by undergraduate students at Smith once a week. The two days a week the teens are coaching the elementary kids, they are also helping the students with their homework before the games begin. There are many different aspects of Project Coach, but they all come together and help develop successful young adults who may not have otherwise been given the opportunity to do so.
Wheaton Athletics: What was your experience like swimming at Wheaton and how does that differ from what you are facing now?
Auger: One of the biggest qualities I learned from the swimming program at Wheaton was how to effectively manage my time. Wheaton is a strong school academically, and their athletic program is also rigorous and time consuming. In order to excel in both the classroom and in the pool, I had to learn quickly how to manage my time. This skill came to me better after freshmen year, and I had worked on it throughout the rest of my time at Wheaton. Now being a part of Project Coach, I have even less free time for homework than I did while I was swimming at Wheaton. If I had not developed effective time management at Wheaton through balancing academics and athletics, I feel as though I would be completely shell shocked here in graduate school while also student teaching and participating in Project Coach full-time.
Wheaton Athletics: What career goals do you have?
Auger: After I graduate Smith in May, I am looking to get a public school teaching job in, or right outside of, Boston. Ideally, I would love to teach in a second or third grade classroom in an urban school setting. Depending on how that goes, I would maybe think about continuing my own education and becoming a professor of education, but I am far away from that decision at this point in time.