The voice of De Anza since 1967.

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The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

Conference sheds light on obstacles of a student athlete



U.C. Berkeley athletic educator Derek Van Rheenen talks about exploitation and athletic issues.

“The Student Athlete: Powerful Beyond Measure” welcomed De Anza College students to engage with educators and peer athletes in a conference based on inclusion and empowerment.

A crowd of scholar athletes showed up in Conference Rooms A and B to listen, learn and discuss the important dynamics of understanding and navigating their choices with education and athletic pursuits.

Conference topics included student athletes facing discrimination, low income students with limited access to higher education, exploitation from colleges based on their athletic ability, difficulty fitting in with peers and sometimes isolation when recruited from colleges far away from
their homes.

Educators and peer athletes of different ethnicities interacted with students to show the intricate relationship between student athletes’ academic success and the competitive pursuit of their sport of choice.

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The conference featured presentation by academic counselor Will Madden and a workshop sponsored by the Equity Office, the LGBQQT Task Force, and students from INTL/POLI 22 and ICS 26.

Key note speaker and athletic educator Derek Van Rheenen said, “Students have opportunities to make the most of their education and colleges should have educators who support and champion them.”

Van Rheenen cited the exploitation  and commercialization of student athletes and college recruitment based more on athletic ability instead of  academic ability.

Van Rheenen also expressed the importance of student athletes’ voices in affecting the continuation of sports programs due to budget cuts, and encouraged students to advocate on behalf of programs important to them.

Peer athletes Robert Poynter, Ben Tucker and Robert Griffin shared parts of their own stories from an African American perspective with students.

Poynter, head track coach at West Valley College, highlighted the importance of athletes as role models, especially to younger athletes, and said coaches actions can have profound impact on student athletes.

Poynter encouraged students to take advantage of tutoring and be proactive with their own academic goals.

“Academic achievement can positively influence younger generations,” Poynter said.

“There is opportunity in adversity,” Tucker said, a multidimensional track star and retired University of California recruiter from the Office of the President. “Developing character should be nurtured by coaches,” he said.


Robert Griffin, Dawnis Guevara, Jason Damjanovic, Ben Tucker and Robert Poynter participate in a panel discussion, sharing their athletic experiences and giving advice to students after the conference held on June 5.

Tucker gave students a book list, the College Board’s 101 Recommended Books, to read and encouraged them to find out about their individual personalities, things they’re good at in addition to their primary sport.

Former competitive sprinter and retired vice president of Educational Programs and Services at De Anza Robert Griffin encouraged student athletes to think for themselves, foster their intellect and strengthen their perception of self.

The discussion panel agreed academic counseling, career planning and support from within campus organizations increases potential for student athletes’ well-being and success.

“Belief in self is important,” Dawnis Guevara, head coach of women’s volleyball, said.

Jason Damjanovic, head coach of men’s basketball said he supports coaches and mentors going the extra mile for students.

Coleen Lee-Wheat, division dean said the strengths of De Anza programs are to support and teach athletes and to nurture both their academic and athletic talents.

The conference was sponsored by De Anza ICCE, California History Center, Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education, IMASS and the AB540 Awareness Month Committee and Coordinated by Adrian Asbun, a De Anza student and ICCE intern.


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