Much has changed since then. The Student-Athletes of Color for Success group is not only meeting in person but have also sent several of its E-Board members to the Black Student Athlete Summit – a national event that is held each May.
Jesse Fuca, an assistant coach with the Binghamton track & field program, has been the advisor of the Student-Athletes of Color for Success since its inception. He marvels at how far the group has come in just three years.
“I am proud of the progress that Student Athletes of Color for Success has made,” he said. “A few years ago, the group was merely an idea. Now we are sending representatives from Binghamton to national conferences such as the Black Student-Athlete Summit and providing enriching experiences for personal growth, networking and learning.”
This past spring, track & field athletes Marcrene Jeannot and Laila Gedeon were Binghamton’s representatives at the Black Student-Athlete Summit. The event was hosted by the University of Southern California (USC).
“I originally became interested in going to the summit in California when last year’s President – Dominique Jackson – shared her exciting experience to me about attending the summit in Texas,” Jeannot said. “She explained to me how much she learned from it and how she met many great people of color within the athletics space across the country.”
“After hearing about Dominique’s experiences last year in Texas, I was excited to hear about the opportunity to go this year,” Gedeon said. “Thankfully our administrator reached out to me with the chance and I was eager to take the trip.”
Both Gedeon and Jeannot had a busy month leading up to the Black Student-Athlete Summit. They competed in outdoor track and had to finish the semester before making the cross-country flight. Jeannot even went straight from the summit to the NCAA East Region Track & Field Meet. Still, what both of them took away from the event was worth the trip.
“I gained a lot of insight and knowledge from Black professionals and speakers filled with wisdom,” Jeannot said. “Many people shared their experiences depending on their situation and offered advice to all that attended – which ranged from details about dealing with micro-aggressions, life after collegiate athletics and more.”
“The entire summit had so many amazing panels and resources – including more intimate panels for us,” Gedeon said. “For example, I attended the grad school panel, the film/Hollywood panel, and the brand marketing/social media/PR panel.”
It wasn’t just what Jeannot and Gedeon learned, however. The Black Student-Athlete Summit led to making many contacts on both a personal and professional level.
“I made plenty of connections with other Black student-athletes that compete, grind and go through the same things that I do,” Jeannot said. “In addition, there were many Black professionals there that were looking to network and improve our experience at the summit. We got to visit the wonderful campus of USC and met highly notable people such as the president of USC and Matt Barnes – who spoke to us on his journey about being an NBA player.”
“I was able to network with so many student-athletes of color and made so many new contacts in the realm of Black student-athletes,” Gedeon said. “Not only that, but I was also able to network with professors, real working people and professional athletes around the country, which was an amazing opportunity.”
For Jeannot and Gedeon, it was also a chance to represent Binghamton University at a major national event.
“I was very honored to represent Binghamton – especially the track & field program,” Jeannot said. “It isn’t every day that you get to go to California and be in a room with so many people that aren’t only going through similar experiences as you but are also able to achieve such high levels of success in and outside of athletics. There were many athletes from very big schools but for us to be there as Binghamton Bearcats and make the name known to other athletes across the country was excellent.”
“There were not many New York schools there,” Gedeon said. “So to represent Binghamton and bring awareness to other schools – particularly those on the West Coast who were not as familiar with us – was an amazing opportunity to shine as a Bearcat.”
The event spanned only four days, but what both Jeannot and Gedeon took away from the event had a profound impact on them.
“For me, I think the event helped me grow as a student-athlete because of the way I feel like I gained another new sense of belonging,” Jeannot said. “As a student-athlete, I was able to share my story with other athletes and we talked about our similarities and differences in our work-life balance. It helped me get a feel for what other people are going through and some changes I can make at my school to make certain issues better at Binghamton. As a person, the event helped me grow because I felt like I truly belonged there and it forced me to step out of my comfort zone at times to gain information, make new connections and put myself out there.”
“I think the event helped me grow as a student-athlete for numerous reasons,” Gedeon said. “To start, we were in cohorts with people who identified with similar internal struggles Marc and I share as student-athletes of color, so being in a safe environment where we could talk while feeling protected pushed me to grow without even realizing it. Along with this, sharing personal experiences and hearing other experiences helped me emotionally, almost as if a hidden weight had been lifted from my shoulders.”
Jeannot and Gedeon talked with Fuca after they returned from the event. The three of them then began to put what they had learned into ideas that can be built upon this year within the Student-Athletes of Color for Success.
“They came back with great ideas,” Fuca said. “We talked about how to build stronger alumni networks, how we can focus on career development to better prepare our group for life beyond college athletics and how we can emphasize balance between athletics and their lives outside of their sport.”
As of early October, the Student-Athletes of Color for Success had already held a few meetings. To Gedeon and Jeannot, however, it’s only the beginning in what they believe will be a very good year for the group.
“I am very excited for the year coming up for the Student-Athletes of Color for Success at Binghamton University,” Jeannot said. “I have been named the president for this school year and have really thought hard about the direction I want the club to go in. We have plenty of events and fun ideas planned for the year and really hope to take the club to the next level. In addition. we have plenty of new freshman and transfer students, so we are really looking to get more people involved with the club this year.”
“Marc and I really want to expand on the previous success of the club and emphasize the importance of having a SACS club in the first place,” Gedeon said. “We really encourage everyone to join now that we have had this experience from the summit and hope to share the knowledge we learned with the rest of the group.”