From Student-Athlete To Teacher

Sydney Suntrup

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I think we all have a favorite teacher when we reminisce about our childhood, right?

I’m no different. For me, my eighth-grade teacher Mrs. Utterson played a special role in my life.

She was just so accommodating with me. Mrs. Utterson knew I was a good student but sometimes struggled to get things done on time. She was great at helping me and letting me know I was welcomed and wanted in her classroom. Not once did she make me feel bad about missing work or being slightly behind. This was instrumental to my development.

She is one of the many reasons I want to be a teacher myself one day. Soon, I hope I can do the same for my students and be a person they can confide in, grow with, and be challenged by.

Living with ADHD

One of the reasons I struggled in the classroom was because I have ADHD. Everyone’s affected by it differently. I, for example, have a hard time staying organized and focused on the task at hand. 

This was especially challenging in elementary school. I’d do well on tests but get low grades because I’d fail to complete my homework assignments. I had the knowledge and ability to do well when given a test but fell short due to the day-to-day work required to get a good grade. 

While some teachers were understanding, others were not. It started to become a growing issue and concern for me. 

After all, grades often dictate what you can and can’t pursue in life.

The solution

Fortunately, I discovered the sport of rowing.

It helped me tremendously with my ADHD. It gave me focus and purpose.

I loved rowing so much that I was ready to do anything for it. Suddenly, I had a reason strong enough to keep me focused and on track. I couldn’t compete without good grades, so I worked as hard as possible to overcome my barriers.

Rowing also gave me strength. I feel confident when I’m rowing. I feel in control of my life and my outcomes. It’s a safe place for me to be me and get after it. It’s why I think everyone needs to have a physical sport or exercise routine that they regularly do. You feel powerful when doing it, and it makes you a stronger, healthier person.

Without a doubt, rowing helped mold me into who I am today.

Being a Mustang

Most importantly, rowing helped me become a Mustang.

SMU holds a special place in my heart. Over the last couple of years, the school has really brought it all full-circle for me.

Interacting with my professors and coaches here at SMU just further solidified my dream of becoming a teacher myself one day. Experiencing how much their support and accommodations impacted my life made me want to go down this path even more.

When I told Coach Cupini about my goals, for example, she did a tremendous job helping me look at different options to help finance my journey. As I’m going to pursue my Master’s here at SMU, any financial aid is appreciated.

So, she made me aware of available scholarships and grants I might be able to apply for.

That’s when I found out about the College Football Playoff Foundation and Dr. Pepper Scholarship to help student-athletes that are pursuing a career in education.

As part of the ‘Go Teach’ initiative, they will give away $1.5 million in tuition credits over the next six years.

I applied with a video, discussing why I want to pursue a career in education and become a teacher, and that was it.

They then award one student from each FBS conference a $10,000 scholarship and 100 total $2,500 scholarships for individual athletes from participating institutions.

And I couldn’t be more excited to share that I received one of their $2,500 scholarships.

I loved rowing so much that I was ready to do anything for it. Suddenly, I had a reason strong enough to keep me focused and on track. I couldn't compete without good grades, so I worked as hard as possible to overcome my barriers.

The teachers before me

Education doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It happens in every moment. I experienced first-hand how much of an impact teachers can have on one’s life.

And I can’t wait to do the same.

I’m so grateful for this opportunity and even more so that SMU supports greatness on and off the field. After all, we are student-athletes; it’s in the name.

We are both, and we have to nurture and cultivate both.

SMU believes and upholds these ideals, and I’m thrilled to now have this scholarship because of their efforts and support.

Thank you, SMU!