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by D.W. Howze
For New Pittsburgh Courier

Two hundred area student athletes were on hand as UPMC Sports Medicine hosted the Student Athlete Leadership Academy at Robert Morris University Aug. 7. The event featured a full day of seminars and activities where students were able to gain informative and hands-on insight as to how to become better leaders.


Even though planning began for this event back in September, and this was the fourth annual event, there were only six African-Americans who participated. None were students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. According to Pittsburgh Public Schools athletic director Mike Gavlik, the word was put out by him to each school. However, to his knowledge, none of the schools nominated any of the athletes.

CHECKING THE SCHEDULE—Brittany Edwards, a senior track star at Baldwin, looks over her agenda for the next hour.

The day began with registration, a continental breakfast, a welcome message from the university’s president, and a keynote speech. Fifty WPIAL schools had representation as the kids piled in to the Sewall Center located on the RMU campus.

“It’s an opportunity for us to reach out to young student athletes,” said Gregory Dell’Omo, Ph.D., who is the president of Robert Morris University. “It is important for them to develop their own leadership skills and their own approach to athletic competition as well as their academics.”

The keynote speaker was Troy Robinson, a former player from the London Monarchs of NFL Europe. He is currently the chief development officer of the Holy Family Institute. He delivered a strong and encouraging message to the students about being the first to take the initiative to be better not only on the field but in the classroom and in the community.

“I think the objective is to get these kids a Division I scholarship and to not have the prize go to a professional athlete,” said Robinson. “It is more important that these kids get through college and receive an education so that when they are ready they can really be leaders in the long run.”

Topics in the seminars held throughout the day were developing a leadership plan, communication and conflict resolution, team building, and stress management/decision-making.

ALL BUSINES—A participant absorbing the information being presented.

“I plan on doing my best in school and telling people that are younger than me to work hard in order to get to where they need to be,” said Elijah David, a junior at North Hills High School. “I’d like to look at my (positive influences) and make them my motivation to do what is needed to be a good leader.”

One of the activities promotes how to deal with pressure and how to stay organized focused and calm in these situations. Tariq Francis, a New Jersey native, was a student manager for the University of Pittsburgh from 1999-2005. He is now the member relations manager at the YMCA at U.S. Steel Tower.

“It’s a great time to be with the youth,” said Francis. “This program brings a good core group of leaders together so that makes it extra special for those who are involved. I hope a lot of these kids get a chance to bring this back to their teams so that they can win some state championships this season.”

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