Dominican wins PacWest Community Engagement award

In its inaugural season in the Pacific West Conference, Dominican University of California has been named winner of the PacWest’s “Community Engagement Award” for its student-athletes’ efforts on and off campus.

Bob Hogue, PacWest commissioner, announced the annual award, which honors outstanding community service and projects performed by a PacWest member’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). A panel of three reviews the nominations and chooses a winner.

“It was very difficult to select a winner this year because of the outstanding effort by the student-athletes in the PacWest,” Bob Hogue, commissioner of the PacWest, said. “But the Dominican University of California student-athletes did an exceptional job and they, along with their institution, deserve this award.”

Chaminade University of Honolulu captured the inaugural award in 2008, while Dixie State College of Utah claimed the honor last year. Dominican will receive a plaque commemorating its selection in June.

 “We thank the Pacific West Conference for this award and its recognition,” said Dominican President Joseph R. Fink. “It reflects the energy and commitment we have devoted toward our athletics program and its outreach to the campus and community at large.  Our entrance into NCAA Division II athletics and the PacWest Conference has generated an incredible amount of interest and support that our student-athletes are passing on to their classmates, staff, faculty, alumni and the Dominican community that surrounds our campus.”

Directed by Dominican women’s basketball coach Brianna Chambers, the Penguin Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (PSAAC ) raised $2,285.25 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America the past school year through donations at sporting events including Junior Penguin Day, the “Mr. Penguin 2010” pageant, and hosting a Blacklight Dance.

“PSAAC would like to thank Dr. Fink and (Dominican athletics director) Terry Tumey for all their support this year,” Chambers said. “We also would like to thank ASDU and President Amiya Powell for all their support and help this year as well.  And of course the students and community members.”

 NCAA Division II National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee led the NCAA in 2003 with its first national community service initiative by embarking upon a fundraiser with Make-A-Wish. With the support of the Division II membership more than $48,000 was raised during their inaugural year. This national fundraiser supports one of the NCAA core values: The role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.

Among the community and fund-raising events Dominican student-athletes participated in during the 2009-10 season were:

Junior Penguin Day 2009 --  In early May of 2009 Dominican invited children of various age levels to participate in a free sports camp during the first Junior Penguin Day. More than 50 children from nearby schools enjoyed basketball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, volleyball and lacrosse clinics hosted by Dominican student-athletes. Along with interacting with their favorite Penguin players, kids ranging from 5 to 17 enjoyed pizza and a dunk contest performed by the Dominican men’s basketball team. At the end of the day everyone left with a souvenir hat, shirt, ball or water bottle.

Spirit Day September 2009 --On September 26, Dominican hosted three intercollegiate athletic events, mock classroom experiences, several guest speakers, the processions of class shields, and a speech from President Fink as a crowd of 1,200 showed up to celebrate the beginning of the school year as Spirit Day. Student-athletes finished a close second to the Alumni Association in the Spirit Song Sing-off that had several university groups sing their version of the school’s alma mater.

 Midnight Mayhem 2009 -- More than 400 students packed the Conlan Center as the PSAAC presented Midnight Madness to kickoff the basketball season. The night began with free pizza in the Conlan Center lobby for the first 100 students. The crowd poured into a dimmed Conlan Center gymnasium waving their gold rally towels where a DJ spun live beats. Nine of Dominican's athletics teams were in attendance (women's volleyball was playing at the same time in Hawai‘i) and could be seen out of their element as the clubs participated in choreographed team dances. The cheerleading squad made its 2009-10 debut with an upbeat dance routine. Fan participation highlighted the middle part of the night. Student teams were required to participate in a relay race that included spinning around, eating peanut butter, and making a lay-up. Drew Bratsberg sank a half-court shot to take home an autographed Mike Singletary football.

 Haunted House -- Dominican student-athletes participated in a haunted house on October  27 as part of a community outreach event put on by the Associated Student Government on campus. Athletes from different teams comprised the 15 zombies that spooked Marin families as they toured through the old Meadowlands Mansion on campus.

 Mr. Penguin 2010 -- Mike Wells, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior guard for Dominican University of California’s men’s basketball team, was named “Mr. Penguin 2010” in a light-hearted “beauty pageant” among 14 Dominican students. Junior Ryan Vella from the men’s soccer team was named first runner-up and athletic department intern David Morris was named the second runner-up.  Roughly 300 people poured into Angelico Hall for the event that helped raise more than $900 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Make-A-Wish for the Fans -- Dominican University’s PSAAC put on a black-light themed dance in the Guzman Lecture Hall that helped raise $1,400 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The student-athletes hosted the event attended by more than 250 people as a way of thanking fans for their support throughout the year.

Spring Fest -- On March 27, several Dominican student-athletes volunteered their celebrity and dryness by hopping in a dunk tank at Spring Fest put on by the Associated Students of Dominican University. Patrons paid $1, donated to the American Cancer Association, for three chances to dunk athletes on a chilly spring day into even chillier water. The afternoon festivities also consisted of hot dogs, rock climbing walls, and jumping houses for children.

 Additionally, Dominican athletic teams made a number of community engagement appearances throughout the year:

Every Sunday for eight weeks in the fall, the men’s lacrosse teams sent four student-athletes to the Ross Valley, Southern Marin and Central Marin recreational programs to give back to the community and form relationships with the children. The team also split up into groups and picked up trash around campus and along the bordering streets in San Rafael, and held clinics in coordination with the Marin Lacrosse Club.

The men’s basketball team partnered with San Rafael High School, the Ross Valley Firefighter's Club, the San Anselmo Police Officer's Association, and the Fairfax Police Officer's Association for the Holiday Season Toy Drive game on December 19 that resulted in more than 200 toys being collected.

 The women’s basketball team planted and cleaned up the Davidson Middle School garden and also was involved with partnering with the local Special Olympics.

 The men’s and women’s soccer teams held skill camps with local youth soccer teams. The women’s volleyball team worked the local CYO and held clinics for local youth volleyball teams. The softball and tennis teams also had skills camps on their schedule.