Former York Student-Athlete Receives ECAC Award of Valor

Former York College student-athlete Vanessa Rivera has been named one of three recipients for the prestigious Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Award of Valor.

She will be honored at the ECAC Fall Convention & Trade Show at the Mystic, CT Marriot Hotel & Spa on Sunday, September 30, with a reception at 6 pm and dinner at 7 pm.

Established in 1985, the ECAC Award of Valor honors ECAC athletes whose courage, motivation and relentless determination serves as inspiration to all.  The recipients exemplify strength of character and perseverance.

Rivera competed in three sports during the 2011-12 school year, playing soccer, basketball and softball and was a key part of all three teams.  But that is not what makes her story notable.  Rivera has been forced to take a lot on her plate because of a difficult family situation.  Her mother worked for a cleaning company and was called in to do clean up work a few days after the 9/11 tragedy.   Not given the proper equipment, her mother along with the other workers, became very sick over the years.  Her mother is now on permanent disability and because of that, Rivera is now responsible for caring for her mother.  She must attend court sessions, doctor appointments and constantly communicate with lawyers, while also making sure her mother gets the proper medication.

Because of her mother’s condition, Rivera, who is the oldest of four children, must care of her 12-year-old brother and six-year-old sister.  She attends their parent-teacher conferences, keeps track of their report cards and supports them with anything else they may need.

On top of all this, Rivera took part in a demanding student-teaching internship during the Spring 2012 semester at the Scholar Academy in Queens, NY, which required her to be there Monday-Friday from 7:30am-3:30 pm.  She graduated in May with a 3.4 GPA and a degree in Physical Education, K-12.  Last season, she was honored by the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) on two occasions. She was named the Burt Beagle Sportsmanship Winner for Women’s Basketball and was also named a CUNYAC Scholar-Athlete Honorable Mention.  She is currently attending graduate school at Brooklyn College.

Despite having all these obstacles in her life, she still managed to compete in three sports during the season.  Her best sport was basketball, where she started 14 games and averaged 3.5 points, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game.  In soccer, she was the team’s starting midfielder and also served as a backup goalie.  In softball, she was the team’s starting right fielder.

“Vanessa is a great person and student-athlete and she deserves to be honored,” said York Athletic Director Ronald St. John.  “She is a true representation of what York student-athletes are about. I hope she continues to do great things.”

When asked why she chooses to play college sports, despite having so many issues in her life she says, “Many people tell me that they don't understand why I kill myself by playing college sports on top of everything I have going on with my family, but they just don't understand how much it means to me to be part of a team. I decided to play sports because sports are what give me the strength to cope with everything. My teammates mean a lot to me.  Each teammate is like a sister to me and I enjoy being with them on and off the court. Through sports, I forget about the real world.  For the couple of hours I am participating in practice or games, I am able to laugh and forget about what I have to go back to.”

Persons interested in attending the Honors Dinner should contact Roger Crosley, ECAC Director of Communications at 508-771-5060, ext 230 or via email at rcrosley@ecac.org.  Tickets to the dinner are $50 each.

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