Written by Erin Dunne, Athletics Media Relations Student Intern

As a student-athlete, competition and drive to succeed is a measure by which you are judged and critiqued on the court, field or area of play. However, this skill will often trickle down into the player’s academics, extracurricular activities, and then eventually into the workforce upon graduation.

At the University of Delaware, both the university itself and many players strive to be this well rounded. One student-athlete in particular stands out for her accomplishments.

Stephanie Leon, a senior on the Blue Hen women’s basketball team, has proven to rise to the occasion both on and off the court in her drive to succeed with her recent acceptance into Teach for America.

The Teach for America program is a highly competitive and highly selective program that aids low-income urban and rural public schools through recruiting college graduates or professionals as corps members.

According to Meghan MacDonald, a Teach for America representative, these members, selected from a pool of 50,000 applicants, are chosen for their “demonstrated leadership ability across a variety of settings, and strong achievement in academic, professional, extracurricular, or volunteer setting.”

Those selected for the program, after an extensive summer training process, will then devote at least two years to teaching in the public schools of that district. The program aims to improve education for these low-income areas through recruiting standout individuals like Leon to help resolve the long-standing issues of education in America.

MacDonald states, “Teach for America places around 10,000 corps members a year, and has reached over three million students since the program began in 1990.”

However, as Leon graduates in May, this will not only be a new venture for her, but a new venture for the Teach for America program itself.  Leon will teach in Orlando, Fla., which is a new site for the widely accredited program.

Leon, along with an estimated 50 other teachers, will be pioneering the new beginnings at the Orlando site as she pioneers a new life for herself after graduation and basketball at the University of Delaware.

“Orlando is a new site for Teach for America as it was just approved to be a part of the program,” exclaimed Leon.  “For me, it’s going to be a great opportunity, as we are introducing the program to Orlando, to Orange County School District, and really being the face of the program, making our own mark on the area.”

After graduation Leon will spend five to seven weeks in Houston, Texas in training and preparation courses for becoming a part of a new squad, the Teach for America team. Then she will spend two years in the Teach for America program in the Orlando Orange County School District, educating young children in regions where education is lacking the attention it deserves.

Her transition from a highly successful basketball team to a highly successful teaching team will be eased by the skills she has garnered in her experience as a Blue Hen at Delaware.

“Basketball has really influenced me in introducing me how to work with a lot of different individuals and really playing to my strengths and taking the initiative to go out and pursue my goals,” remarked Leon. “I think basketball will help in preparing me for the unexpected and learning how to work through changes and be ready for the unsure.”

It certainly will be “the unsure,” as Leon puts it, since this will be her first experience as a teacher at all.

However, she holds inspiration for going into teaching from her former Northport (N.Y.) High School coach and math teacher, Richard Castellano. He certainly believes that Leon will rise to the unique occasion, as she has in many other aspects.

“If there is a profession for Stephanie I would pick, it would be as a teacher,” commented Castellano.  “You would not have to worry about her working hard to get to know the concept. She is a natural. She worked hard on the basketball court and she will do the same in the classroom.”

As for joining a team not quite like the one Leon plays on now at Delaware, Castellano reassuringly mentioned, “Her work ethic and all she has done as a student-athlete, how could that not equate to the classroom,” proving that her drive to succeed is noteworthy in all aspects of her life.

Similarly, UD head coach Tina Martin shares the same emotions about Leon’s leadership skills and desire to succeed as she ventures into teaching, and at that, a new location.

“We always look for student-athletes like Stephanie Leon because she is a young lady that is very much a leader,” stated Martin. “Stephanie fits the mold very well for what I look for. Someone who is a giver, someone who is very much into the team, someone who really strives to be the best that they can be, someone who is able to prioritize what’s important in life.”

In pioneering a new site and a new path in life, these qualities harvested from the basketball court and her life experiences will assist Leon in rising to the new challenge for being a teacher in the Teach for America program.

Though anxious about the potential of a new place and life away from what she knows at the University of Delaware, Leon looks forward to the challenge.

“Teach for America is a great way to get out into the workforce and make a difference, but still be able to grow myself and learning about a new area and new people,” Leon remarked.

MacDonald certainly believes Leon will rise to the challenges provoked in Teach for America, as she is excited to welcome her to the program.

“We know that her athletic experience, combined with Stephanie’s numerous other strengths and skills, and her deep sense of what is possible for her students, will enable her to be an amazing leader in the classroom next year,” exclaimed MacDonald.