Sacred Heart: The Gem in my Backyard

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By Tomas Koeck
Assistant Photo Editor

      To those who know me, my academic life has not been exactly linear. In fact, it has been anything but, a direct contrast to what I expected my path to be. Yet with all of its ups and downs, I still managed to end up at a place where my greatest wants and needs in a school would become a reality. I grew up in Fairfield, and Sacred Heart, seemingly in my backyard did not appeal to me at the time. Since I was a sophomore in high school, I had always wanted to go to Penn State University. It seemed like an unattainable dream at the time. I wanted to be recruited to their division I NCAA fencing team, one of the best in the country, and to have the chance to make a name for myself and wear the colors of the Nittany Lions. The years that followed were packed with training and results. My fencing statistics improved, and with the help of a good friend, I was able to make contact with the Penn State coaches. An official visit and recruiting trip resulted in my recruitment to the team that would instantly put me on cloud nine, and things seemed to be rapidly coming together.  

     Upon entering enrollmentI still remember walking on to campus the first time as a student, I could feel the excitement, the energy, and would smile as I could feel the “blue blood” (a psu term) that flowed through my veins. Yet as time went by, I began to notice things were not as simple and beautiful as they seemed. Classes were taught by graduate students and the university had an industrial vibe. At first I blamed myself for my struggles with academics, and my lack of being able to find healthy social groups. Yet the longer I stayed, the more stories I heard, and I began to think otherwise. Then news came in, the fencing coaches were under investigation as a sexual assault scandal surfaced. It was not long before it made front pages on ESPN, FOX and other major networks. There were some heated political battles on the team, and things began to be very uncomfortable. Before long, I decided it was time that I transfer, as the college experience that I led at PSU was more than what I bargained for.   

     My search for a new school eventually had me ending up at Sacred Heart University. I had friends that had attended the school, not to mention it had a stellar fencing program, so it was only natural that it appeared to be a good choice for me. Upon arrival, I was on edge, scared of what skeletons hid in the closets around me, yet I never seemed to find any. I was also floored by the professionalism and abilities that came with the professors, especially with elements like the open-door policy with office hours. My experience would only be enhanced with the guidance of Professor Rick Falco, my current major counselor and professor. He saw my passion for photography and introduced me to his own organization known as Vision Project. It was through this where I began to work on my own documentary that would later be the plan for my senior project. It was this project that would later lead to my first sponsor and magazine offer and it was this project that would lead to my indoctrination into one of the more prestigious social nature journals. This is what leads me to something that I found to be very special at SHU: the amount of opportunities can be endless. Like falling dominos, hard work kept paying off. Every time I applied myself, I was confronted with new tasks and challenges that offered consistent rewards. I credit this to Sacred Heart’s tight community, where there seems to be so many connections and doors waiting to be opened. It can be said while my previous college never answered the door, it was Sacred Heart that welcomed me in and would become the gem in my backyard. 

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