SAAC helps student-athletes reach out to the community

Once a month, the Youngstown State University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meets in Stambaugh Stadium to help provide a voice to student-athletes while giving back to the community.

The SAAC was developed through a NCAA mandate, which is active on all Division I campuses and has been at YSU since 1999.

Breanne Romeo, SAAC adviser, said the organization is an intricate part of the athletic department.

Romeo, a member of track and field during her undergraduate career, was eager to stay involved in the organization. She graduated in May and is now pursuing a Master of Business Administration while working as a graduate assistant for YSU Housing & Residence Life.

“I thought I would only be able to focus my time in housing, and they actually encouraged me to go forth where my interest lie, and obviously athletics, especially here at YSU, is a huge passion of mine,” Romeo said.

Susan Carfolo, who was the SAAC adviser for approximately five years before Romeo, agreed that SAAC is important and provides an opportunity that student-athletes may not have otherwise.

“Oftentimes the athletes, because their time is so limited, don’t have the opportunity to get involved in campus and in other organizations because it’s just not feasible for them to have too many commitments, and SAAC allowed us to bridge between student activities and other organizations,” Carfolo said.

This year, SAAC has performed three community activities in addition to several on-campus, athlete-related functions.  

At the beginning of the semester, athletes participated in the annual Penguin Fest where freshman athletes performed in skits, and student-athletes were encouraged to better know one another through activities. During November and the beginning weeks of December, SAAC members are ringing for the Salvation Army.

“Generally, the purpose of SAAC is to have an outlet for student-athletes to communicate to the administration, build strong student-athlete leadership in getting involved in the community and building camaraderie amongst all of our athletic teams,” she said.

Macey Nortey, a senior basketball player, has been involved in SAAC for four years. After her coach initially informed her about SAAC, she wanted to be involved as much as possible and now serves as the vice president.

“You get to reach out to the community more through SAAC, so it’s not just with your sport,” she said.

SAAC members are appointed by coaches and teammates and attend monthly meetings while being mindful of the concerns of their teammates. However, at YSU, the focus has been more on community issues this year.  

“There have been really no major issues, and I think that’s why the focus remains with building community of the athlete. I think if there aren’t any issues, they want to focus the positives at the student-athletes and really build that community,” Romeo said. “What we are trying to do this year is enforce and build a forum for the purpose of it, which is to express concerns.”

Brianna Bartlett, freshman volleyball player, said she is somewhat aware of what SAAC is and what the organization does. However, Bartlett said she is confident that if she had any concerns or questions, she could take those to her team’s SAAC representative.

Romeo said issues could vary from a lack of soap in the training room to hours of operation for the Watson and Tressel Training Site.

Kelsey Kempton, senior soccer player, serves as president this year.

She said she believes that SAAC fosters an open environment with athletic administration.

“Elaine comes here and talks to us about issues with the NCAA or anything,” she said, referring to Elaine Jacobs, associate athletic director. “We can all say how we’re feeling about anything that we feel is wrong.”