Making an Impact

By Julia Nagy

It’s kind of funny.

When you’re a young athlete, all you think about is being an All-American or winning a national championship one day.

Don’t get me wrong, those are amazing goals that any competitive athlete should aspire to, but there’s so much more to sports than awards or championships.

I learned this as I’ve gotten older.

If I have a great volleyball game, that’ll be remembered for a night.

But if I’m able to get involved and impact my community, it could change someone’s life forever.

This was the mindset I had when I began my journey as a student-athlete.

Wherever I went, I knew I wanted to be more than an athlete and help provide others with the same opportunities I’ve been blessed with in my life.

What I didn’t realize is I would find a university in DePaul that not only offers but prioritizes community involvement and making a difference.

I’ve grown so much these past three years, both on and off the court.

But I’m not the person and player I am today without having stepped foot on this campus that has influenced my life in more ways than I ever thought possible.

Patience and growth

After originally committing to DePaul, I made the decision to stay closer to home and attend Grace College, which is a small NAIA school just about an hour away from my hometown.

After playing at Grace for a season, I felt like I needed a different challenge.

Thankfully, as if it was meant to be, DePaul still showed interest.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a tough transition, though. Going from the NAIA to DI volleyball in the Big East is no joke.

I didn’t come close to seeing the court in my first year, and I started to seriously question whether I belonged here as my confidence continued to waver.

Fortunately, my team was always there to pick me up.

The assistant coaches told me after the season how the upcoming offseason was going to be huge for me. They said I was going to find my game and get faster and stronger in the process.

They were right.

In my second season last year, I saw much more playing time and became a contributing factor on the court.

Without the team’s confidence and belief in my abilities, I’m not sure how my volleyball career would’ve turned out.

I couldn’t be more grateful to a university and program that was patient with me and allowed me to grow into the player I am today.

Carrying the torch

Of all the moments and memories I have playing on the court with a tight-knit group of girls that I absolutely adore, it’s the time I’ve spent off the court at DePaul that means the most to me.

From the moment I arrived on campus, I knew this place was special in how they reached out to the community and cared about making a difference.

One of our assistant coaches, Erin Higgins, played a vital role in DePaul’s partnership with Team IMPACT.

For those who don’t know, Team IMPACT matches kids with chronic illnesses to college sports teams. With the struggles and battles they face on an everyday basis, this gives them the opportunity to smile and have fun being a part of a college team.

Our volleyball team matched with the sweetest girl named Ariyana.

They actually matched with her while I was still at Grace, so when I joined the team, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Immediately, I wanted to do anything I could to help. My goal was to brighten that little girl’s day for as much as she brightened ours.

When Erin left DePaul to go work for Team IMPACT, this created a vacancy in the communication and day-to-day organization to coordinate with Team IMPACT and Ariyana.

Erin asked me if I’d be interested in taking over for her, and I didn’t hesitate for a second.

She saw how much this program meant to me and the extent of which it enriched my life. I wanted to keep carrying that torch she lit by investing in others and bringing the community together to make DePaul one of the most unique places in the country.

If I have a great volleyball game, that'll be remembered for a night. But if I'm able to get involved and impact my community, it could change someone's life forever. This was the mindset I had when I began my journey as a student-athlete. Wherever I went, I knew I wanted to be more than an athlete and help provide others with the same opportunities I've been blessed with in my life.

Bigger than myself

After I started to work closer with Team IMPACT, they offered me the opportunity to be a part of their fellowship program.

It’s more or less an internship that consists of 100 student-athletes across the country, and our job is to spread awareness and increase participation at our universities.

We have a summit every summer in Boston, so I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in that event the last two years now, and it’s easily been one of the best experiences of my life.

There’s nothing better than getting together with student-athletes across the entire country who are so invested in this program.

Their dedication and commitment to making a positive influence on their campus through Team IMPACT leaves me nothing short of inspired.

Attending the summit the last two years has reminded me to go all-in.

I found something outside of volleyball that I feel tremendously passionate about, and I want it to be a guiding force in my life.

Part of my role with the fellowship program is expanding the Team IMPACT outreach to various DePaul teams on campus, but I don’t look at it as a job or responsibility.

I look at it as an honor.

While Ariyana has sadly graduated from the program, there are around five or six other teams on campus that have matched with Team IMPACT kids.

I expect those numbers to continue to grow because I’ve witnessed first-hand how great it feels to be a part of something bigger than yourself and leave a significant impact on a child’s life.

A grateful legacy

This past September, I organized a Team IMPACT awareness game for one of the women’s soccer games. I actually helped organize it with Eleanor, another fellowship member, who’s on the tennis team here at DePaul.

What made it so special was that all the matches from DePaul came to the game and sat with their respective teams.

It was incredibly sweet, and it melted my heart to see the friendship and bond that was created with all the different student-athletes and these kids.

My time at DePaul may be coming to an end soon, but I’ll always be grateful for events like this that gave me the opportunity to give back and make a difference to a community and university that has given so much to me.

There was a time not too long ago when I wasn’t sure if DI volleyball was right for me, or if I’d ever make a contribution to my team or this university.

But thanks to my loving and supportive coaches and teammates, Team IMPACT, and the entire DePaul community, I can honestly say I’ve left a legacy I can be proud of.

For that, I will always be filled with endless gratitude.

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