Since 2004, UR student-athletes have been working to improve the world through involvement in the St. Sebastian Society, a student organization sponsored by the Catholic Newman Community. Composed of student athletes from across all majors, the St. Sebastian Society aims to provide “leadership, spirituality, and community service” beyond the athletic field through involvement in various projects both on and off campus.
The Catholic Newman Community is a nationwide religious organization that works on various community service projects, specifically with Catholic communities on college campuses. According to their mission statement, the organization aims to “provide a welcoming Catholic family in a collaborative and inclusive interfaith environment for students and the larger University of Rochester community that promotes strong faith formation through the sacraments, education, service, and social programming.”
One of St. Sebastian Society’s largest projects takes place at Nativity Preparatory Academy, a Roman Catholic middle school designed for highly self-motivated, economically disadvantaged students whose potential for academic success has been compromised by negative social and economic factors affecting their families. The school aims to provide pre-high school students with the opportunity for a profound and legitimate education.
Members of the UR St. Sebastian Society are matched with a student from Nativity Prep for volunteer tutoring sessions.
Other projects include mentoring at a local jail by facilitating discussion based on a book titled “Yes Pa” – a story that focuses on morality and life lessons. The group also participates in the Newman Cup soccer tournament to raise money for La Casa, an organization that provides transitional housing for migrant farm workers and their families, particularly during the winter months. Captain of Spirituality for the St. Sebastian Society and senior Vincent Michalec believes that this tournament is “one of St. Seb’s signature events.”
This past year, the St. Sebastian Society began a Box Tops 4 Education collection program, a national project run by General Mills cereal brand which entails the collection of cardboard tabs from their cereal boxes. These tabs are then sent to General Mills and, for each box top, ten cents are given back to the school where the box tops were traded in.
The St. Sebastian Society has set up collection boxes all around campus – from the Interfaith Chapel to the GAC to Sue B. Residence hall – that are available for students to donate their box tops from cereal and snack boxes.
Once enough box tops are accumulated, the Society will send the Box Tops to the Nativity Preparatory Academy, who then submits them to the Box Tops for Education Foundation and will then receive financial benefits that can be put to use within the school.
“Ten cents [per Box Top] may not seem like a whole lot, but the amount builds up over time,” Student Leader of the St. Sebastian Society and junior Gabriella Goddette said. The collection boxes at UR have accumulated 300 Box Tops this“but we hope for a lot more,” Goddette said.
Aside from participation in a slew of community service projects, the St. Sebastian Society hosts a multitude of educational events, including guest speakers such as a recent visit from educational activist Fred Sarkis, the creator of on of the society’s key partner organizations, Yes Pa.
Although the group’s major focus is education, as a part of the Catholic Newman Community, they inherently have strong Roman Catholic ties as well. A few weeks ago the St. Sebastian Society held a conference hosted by Veils of Salomé, an organization that retells the biblical story of the execution of John the Baptist. A distinguished group of scholars and performers worked to retell the biblical story of the execution of John the Baptist “as a focus for the study of intersections between religion, the arts, and gender over the centuries,” according to the event invitation.
Even despite athletic and academic commitment, members of the group are consistently very dedicated to raising significant funds for their group. “The bi-weekly meetings and occasional service projects offer each of us some relief from the high-paced life at the University of Rochester,” Michalec said.
The Society, though focused on Roman Catholic ideologies, welcomes student-athletes of all ethnicities, religions, and upbringings to participate.
Through the ongoing Box Top Collection project, students can all help the Society to give back to the community, helping with the education of students of the Nativity Preparatory Academy.
Kaplan is a member of the class of 2018.