Thursday, May 12, 2011
By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At the Geneva College commencement ceremonies last weekend for 300 undergraduate students, Provost Ken Carson singled out a group of students for special recognition.
He asked all of the athletes from the school's 13 varsity teams to stand up. Anjelica Marsh, 21, was among them.
She and her fellow athletes were thanked for the four years of practice and play they put in as members of their school's Golden Tornadoes teams while earning their college degrees.
And in keeping with his commencement ceremony tradition, the provost shared a story about an inspirational student.
This year, it was Ms. Marsh, who had grown up on College Avenue about 100 yards from the campus of the Christian school in Beaver Falls.
Ms. Marsh, 21, played right field on the softball team for four years while working on a double major in human services and psychology. The first member of her family to earn a college degree, she worked five jobs to accomplish that feat.
A graduate of Beaver Falls High School, where she played softball for four years, she dreamed of going to college.
"Honestly it started with family struggles," Ms. Marsh said. She watched relatives struggle with drug and alcohol problems and decided to "take a completely different path."
Although she expected that going to college would mean leaving the small town where she grew up, a financial aid package of scholarships and loans to Geneva would enable her to stay in Beaver Falls.
She also became drawn to the school whose literature describes it as a "comprehensive Christian college ... founded in the tradition of the Reformed Christian faith."
Ms. Marsh credits professors, especially Stephanie Schindel, with "helping me to develop as a student and a Christian."
She worked many jobs to pay the balance of her tuition -- a waitress at Matty Goff's Cafe, bartending at Sims (Bowling) Lanes, promotional work for BarSmart and free-lance modeling for catalogues.
But her favorite job has been working as a bat girl for the Pittsburgh Pirates. She landed that job last summer after applying on the recommendation of her college softball coach.
The Pirates have 12 bat girls -- all college softball players. She gets to work at four or five games each month.
"It's really been a thrill for me, going from sitting in the seats high up" in PNC Park "to being right on the field with the players," Ms. Marsh said.
"I've gotten to know about 10 of the players," she said. Some players are a bit intense and don't engage in small talk. Others don't speak much English.
Although she graduated last weekend, her college career isn't quite over. Her softball team qualified for the national tournament of the NCCAA -- National Christian College Athletic Association.
They play their first game today in Virginia.
Next year, all of Geneva's teams will be competing in Division III of the NCAA -- National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In the fall, she'll be looking for a job that uses her college degree and she plans to attend graduate school at some point.
"I'd like to be a counselor," Ms. Marsh said. "I enjoy working with children."
Her summer plans, in addition to working for the Pirates, include "taking a break" and taking a vacation. Her boss from Maddy Goff's "is taking me to the Philippines, which is where she is from. It's my graduation present."
Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-722-0087.
First published on May 12, 2011 at 5:18 a.m.