June 06, 2016

Coaches encourage athletes to pursue study abroad, mission trips, internships, and challenging majors

John Brewer is used to pushing himself outside his comfort zone. He does it often as a student-athlete and Army ROTC cadet. But this moment was difficult, even for him.

Brewer was shaving the face of a man he had never met before in an unfamiliar country. He trimmed the fingernails and toenails of the man, who lived in a home for people with intellectual disabilities.

“There’s a certain barrier that exists at first when you see someone that is extremely different from you,” said Brewer of his experience during a Catholic University-sponsored mission trip to Jamaica in 2015. “It honestly might scare you. At a certain point you have to accept that at the end of the day, you and that person are still equal. You’re both still children of God.”

Brewer went on the spring break mission trip despite a busy schedule as a student-athlete. He was a member of the University’s cross country and track and field teams, which compete throughout the academic year. He trained as an ROTC cadet and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army on May 20. He earned his degree in mechanical engineering in May and was named the Landmark Conference’s Senior Scholar Athlete for men’s track and field.

Knowing that he would be able to do all of those things helped solidify his decision to attend Catholic University as a student-athlete.

“I saw I could do engineering here, which I wanted to do. And I could run here. And then I could also do ROTC here. If I had tried to go to a Division I or Division II school, there’s no way I could have balanced all three,” Brewer said.

Student-athletes, who usually make up 22 to 25 percent of the incoming freshman class, are drawn to Catholic University for a number of reasons. Coaches emphasize the student in student-athlete, encouraging players to pursue challenging majors such as nursing, architecture, music, and engineering. There are opportunities for study abroad, mission trips, and internships in Washington, D.C.

Nicole Castellano
Nicole Castellano competes for the Catholic University swim team.

Nicole Castellano knew from a young age that she wanted to teach. She balanced four years on the swim team with hours of student teaching in D.C.-area classrooms.

“I was looking for a program that spoke to the student-athlete aspect,” she said. “Catholic University was that perfect fit. I’ve been in the school system tutoring and teaching since sophomore year. I liked how I was able to be an athlete, be a student, and also be able to have friends that aren’t in education or on the swim team. I felt like Catholic University allowed me to pursue all aspects of what I was looking for.”

Castellano won this year’s President’s Award, the University’s highest honor, at Commencement in May. She maintained a 3.8 GPA while swimming, teaching, and serving as a leader for Brookland Outreach, a Campus Ministry program that aims to connect members of the Brookland neighborhood with the University.

“You can study something you absolutely love,” she said. “You can still put all you have into your sport. The coaches here understand the academic side of student-athletes. It’s not just about what you can do on the field. You can do it all here.”

Laura Dunn, CUA women's lacrosse player
Laura Dunn, a senior psychology major, is a member of the women's lacrosse team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. As vice president of the University's chapter of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, she works with other student-athletes and leadership in the Department of Athletics to organize community service projects and develop strategies to encourage students to attend Catholic University sporting events.