GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) is delighted to announce its inaugural winners of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Male and Female Members of the Year awards, with Keuka College senior Brittany Hadley (Jasper, N.Y.) and Wells College senior Paul Hernon (New Hartford, N.Y.) each garnering the first-ever honors.
The new annual awards were instituted this year to recognize the multiple contributions of the SAAC members across the conference. Each school was allowed to nominate one male and one female SAAC member from their institution based on criteria such as their leadership roles within the group, their dedication to community service and their involvement on campus. All nominations were then reviewed and voted on by the SAAC advisors at each of the NEAC’s 14 full-member schools.
Hadley, a business management major at Keuka, was voted as the first-ever SAAC Female Member of the Year recipient. Serving as the SAAC Chair for both Keuka College and the NEAC this year, Hadley proved to be a leader both on and off campus. A team captain and four-year member of the Wolfpack women’s basketball team, Hadley helped lead her squad’s efforts in numerous community service projects this past season. The team partnered with the national Samaritan's Feet program to hold the college's first Samaritan’s Feet Game on Feb. 14, where they were able to raise $600 for the program that was put towards providing sneakers for children in developing and low-income countries. She also helped organized and run two annual Keuka events within her sport with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service youth basketball clinic and the Special Olympics basketball tournament. She assisted at the Finger Lakes Grape Leaf basketball tournament as well.
Hadley’s community outreach also extended beyond basketball, as she organized a Kids Night Out for local youth in the area that allowed parents to also have a nice night out. She was also one of nearly 300 volunteers that participated in the county’s annual “Celebrate Yates, Celebrate Service” community service day, which saw members from the Keuka campus and the surrounding community dedicate their time at an event-record 32 nonprofit work sites on Sunday, April 12.
Her yearlong efforts were also recognized by Keuka, as she was recently honored with the Nancy Wightman Leadership Award at the annual athletics awards banquet.
Hernon, an English major at Wells, garnered the first SAAC Male Member of the Year honor. A two-sport athlete as a member of the Express men’s cross country and volleyball teams, Hernon was also highly involved with numerous campus organizations. He helped lead several community service initiatives as the Wells SAAC Vice Chair, including organizing a canned goods drive for the local food bank in addition to a Field Day event and an athletic gear donation drive that both benefitted the local Southern Cayuga school district.
Hernon’s campus involvement also included student government, where he served as the elections manager for the Wells Collegiate Cabinet. He also led the school’s Incentive Points Program, which encouraged all Express athletics teams through friendly competition to attend as many non-sport events (poetry readings, art exhibits, etc.) as possible during the academic year. He was able to do all of this and balance two sports while still being an excellent student, as he became the first male recipient of the K. Maloney Award, which is given to the Wells senior student-athlete with the highest grade-point average and who has participated in at least three years of collegiate athletics.
His academic and athletic excellence was also recognized at the national level, as he was recently honored by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) membership as a Capital One Academic All-District First Team At-Large honoree. Hernon was one of only nine men's volleyball players nationwide to make the exclusive list and only one of six from NCAA Division III institutions while being the lone NEAC representative.
“Paul really is a vital member of our Wells Community,” said Wells SAAC advisor Michael O’Brien. “He did an outstanding job this year helping our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee engage with the community at large, while also fulfilling several leadership roles on campus.”
Below is an Honorable Mention list of fellow NEAC SAAC members nominated for each award.
Nicole Melanson, Sr., Wilson College
A four-year letter winner in field hockey and former two-year member of the women’s lacrosse team, Melanson served as the Wilson SAAC secretary and president of the group’s Athletics Association, a committee that is in charge of planning Wilson’s annual athletic awards ceremony. Melanson, an equine facilitated therapeutics major and three-time scholar-athlete, was a recent recipient of the Catherine Herr Langdon Award that is given to a senior who has demonstrated academic excellence and has given encouragement and guidance to fellow students during the year. She also led the charge to bring the “No More” initiative to campus, a national public awareness campaign on domestic and sexual violence that aims to help end the silence of domestic violence and sexual assault. More information regarding her involvement with the campaign can be found here.
Erin Wadsworth, Jr., SUNY Cobleskill
A captain for the Fighting Tiger softball team and the NEAC North Pitcher of the Year, Wadsworth is a member of the softball honors program and the Honors Program Advisory Council. She received the Excellence in Leadership Award for her multiple roles on campus and in the community, including her involvement in the 5K “Tiger Run for Autism” that drew over 250 participants and generated over $5,000 to be donated to autism awareness. She also assisted with service projects that included the Community Clean Up, the Children’s Halloween Party on campus and the athletics department’s annual MLB Pitch, Hit and Run competition for local youth. An animal science major, Wadsworth’s on-campus involvement also included being a student-athlete panel member for student affairs, being the student-athlete representative at the Hall of Fame banquet and serving as a senior resident assistant.
Maria Pavone, Sr., Penn State Berks
A four-year member of the women's volleyball team, Pavone served as the institution’s SAAC secretary while being an active member of the group during her four years at Berks. Pavone helped organize the Pink Game fundraiser for her volleyball team by raising awareness on campus of the event while also setting up a serving contest for fans between sets of a game. This helped raise funds sent to the Breast Cancer Support Services of Berks County. Pavone was also highly involved in other Pink Game fundraisers held by numerous other Nittany Lion teams throughout the year, in addition to volunteering to go along on the multiple trips that SAAC took to pack food at a local food bank. Her leadership traits allowed her to be one of the few Berks student-athletes involved in the planning, set up and decoration of the school’s end-of-the-year sports banquet. The biology major gained even more of those traits when joining several other members of SAAC to participate in a leadership program that was held in Gettysburg, which explained leadership by walking around the grounds where battle took place and used examples of leadership during the war.
Alesandria DeSapio, Sr., College of Saint Elizabeth
A three-sport athlete competing in women’s cross country, swimming & diving and softball for the Eagles, DeSapio was also the campus’ SAAC President. The pre-law major represented Saint Elizabeth at the NEAC’s annual conference-wide SAAC meeting this past fall before being one of seven NEAC SAAC representatives chosen to attend the annual NCAA Convention this past January. She also helped run all of the Saint Elizabeth events during NCAA Division III Week that included a campus-wide volleyball tournament featuring students, staff and faculty, in addition to a campus cleanup and a Nutrition Day, while also organizing the end-of-the-year athletics pool party sponsored by SAAC. Her efforts landed her as the college’s honoree at the New Jersey National Girls and Women in Sports Day luncheon, where a female student-athlete was represented by every college and high school in New Jersey.
Drew Weinhold, Jr., Penn State Berks
Weinhold, a member of the men's tennis team, serves as the SAAC Vice President for Penn State Berks. An accounting major, Weinhold helped in the coordination of a food drive that ran during the holiday season and also joined his fellow group members in both of their trips to pack food at a local food bank. He was an integral part in collecting donations during the multiple Pink Game fundraisers held throughout the year by various teams at Berks, while also helping facilitate halftime events during those contests that included a soccer free-kick challenge, a basketball half-court shot and a volleyball serving contest. All those proceeds helped benefit the Breast Cancer Support Services of Berks County. He also helped plan the annual end-of-the-year athletics banquet, where he introduced all individual award winners at the event, in addition to joining several other members of SAAC to participate in a leadership program that was held in Gettysburg. The event explained leadership by walking around the grounds where battle took place and used examples of leadership during the war.
Brian Alt, Jr., SUNY Cobleskill
A member of the Fighting Tiger swimming & diving team, Alt used his excellence in the sport to also help serve the community. Alt serves as a lifeguard on campus while also coaching the local Penguins swim team. He will also be volunteering in the Maldives teaching swimming lessons for a month in May and June. His volunteer work also extended to the school’s 5K “Tiger Run for Autism” that drew over 250 participants and generated over $5,000 to be donated to autism awareness. In the pool, Alt was the NEAC Co-Swimmer of the Year and a three-time Swimmer of the Week honoree while breaking three school records this past season. A campus judicial board member, Alt also stood out academically, as the liberal arts and social science major was named as a Dean’s List Honorable Mention last fall.
Rasul Jackson, Fr., Wilson College
Jackson is an integral member of the Wilson College basketball team, which began its first season in program history this year. He was chosen by the Wilson SAAC to be the recipient of the Rookie of the Year award, which is given to a first-year athlete who has made acknowledgeable contributions to his team during the current season. Jackson, a business major, was actively involved in student-athlete panel discussions for potential student-athletes visits and also served as a campus tour guide for the athletics department. He also teamed with the rest of his Phoenix teammates and the Wilson College student development department to take a stand against domestic violence by getting involved with the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” campaign sponsored by the Chambersburg Women in Need.
The North Eastern Athletic Conference has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College. Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Penn State Altoona (M Volleyball) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf). The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of men’s and women’s tennis.