November 25, 2009
“When I was
little, I used to dream about playing college soccer,” 22-year-old
senior and scholar/athlete Courtney Curby confided.
Coming from a family of college athletes, Courtney never doubted
that her dream would come true. But since she lived in La Grange,
IL, at the time, St. John’s University wasn't yet even a gleam in
That soon changed. Even before she applied to the University,
Courtney recalled, “Someone from St. John’s Athletics
Department saw me playing in a high school soccer tournament and
wrote to ask if I wanted to play college soccer at St. John’s.”
Then St. John's Admission Office contacted Courtney to tell
her she qualified for a Presidential Scholarship based on her
stellar academic record.
A visit to the Queens campus to meet with the Women’s’ Soccer
Coach convinced the Illinois native that St. John’s was the place
for her. Not only was Courtney impressed by the Athletics
Department’s concern for the physical and emotional well-being of
its athletes, but she also felt that St. John’s fit her
goal-oriented academic nature.
Inspired by the Vincentian
Since entering St. John’s, the education major has also embraced
the University’s Vincentian mission as a key to her success. “It
has turned out to be the thread that's woven together my own strong
value system with the concept of serving others, compassionately
and effectively,” she said.
Courtney credits the remarkable diversity of St. John’s student
body with enhancing her growth. “St. John’s gave me the perfect
environment in which to shape my own values, while becoming more
tolerant and understanding of the values of others,” she said. This
understanding has deepened, she added, thanks to the many
varied service opportunities at St. John’s.
Among those she has found most meaningful, Courtney cites her
service preparing meals for residents at a local homeless
shelter and an Academic Service-Learning project with the Liberty
Partnership Program. This project required her to tutor at-risk
middle school students for their Regents’ exams. “By getting to
know less fortunate people on a personal and one-to-one basis, I
have become more empathetic and compassionate,” she
Partnership — one of many external partnerships St. John’s has
formed — is a NYS Department of Education organization dedicated to
helping at-risk high school students achieve academic
success. It is through such strategic partnerships that St.
John's strengthens the impact of its mission by expanding the
reach of its student-delivered service.
Lessons of the Game
For Courtney, service, classwork and athletics each demand the kind
of discipline that leads to success in any endeavor. “When you’re
driven athletically,” Courtney explained, “you also tend to be
driven academically. Luckily, St John’s has given me outlets to
fulfill both sides of my personality. It has also given me
something else that has been very valuable — supportive faculty and
administrative role models and mentors.”
pays special tribute to Associate Dean of The School of Education,
Charisse Willis, who steered her towards pursuing a career in
education. “Charisse, in particular, has continually urged me to
keep pushing the envelope,” said Courtney. This encouragement paid
off handsomely when Courtney was inducted into The School of
Education’s highest honor society —
Dean’s Scholars — where she was later named Head Scholar.
Michele Canning, Assistant Coach for the Women’s’ Soccer Team, has
played a comparable role in training Courtney to view the game of
soccer as a “metaphor for life.” Courtney said one of the most
important lessons she has learned is “to value the welfare of the
team above that of the individual,” she said.
Courtney is especially excited about being a member of the first
St. John’s women’s team to make it to the NCAA tournament. “It’s
been absolutely amazing to finish my college soccer career as part
of a winning team,” she said. “We did so well because we all had
the same goal in mind and we played keeping in mind the fact that
our individual success depended upon the success of the whole
Sportsmanship as a Guide to Effective Leadership
Experiencing the value of teamwork has helped Courtney develop
outstanding leadership skills. For example, she is proud to have
helped introduce mentoring into the required freshman
student/athlete course — Student Development 101.
“We revamped the original course by using upperclass
student/athlete mentors instead of staff members from the Athletics
Department,” said Courtney, who worked with Lucy Pesce, Director of
Leadership Development for Student-Athletes. “This change has made
the course a safe harbor for airing student/athlete issues and
supports the moral development of freshmen athletes.”
Looking back on her St. John’s experience, Courtney stated, “I can
think of no better place for a student, who, like me, wants to
receive the best possible education in a supportive, mentoring
environment that allows me to realize my full potential both
personally and professionally.