It was a cold January day when Vlada Shelkova ’12, first visited Stonehill, but she felt the sense of warmth exuded by Stonehill’s closely knit community.
When Vlada arrived on campus as a freshman, she again discovered that sense of community – at a dining table. Vlada says that the nightly dinners she shared with her Track & Field teammates at the unofficial “track table” in the Roche Dining Commons quickly became an indelible part of her Stonehill experience.
“We had a real sense of family, and eating together was part of that,” she says. “We would go home for breaks and it felt strange to be away from each other – these friendships stay with you.”
Vlada says that through common interests, it’s easy to forge connections at Stonehill. In addition to dining companions, her track teammates were also her roommates in New Hall, which made the student athletes’ schedules easier to follow. “We all had to go to bed early on Fridays because we had a meet the next day – there was an understanding,” she says.
The valuable lessons Vlada learned as a student athlete at Stonehill – including being a team player and giving of yourself toward a common goal – were discovered both at the W.B. Mason Stadium and in a less likely place: a playground. As a Life Skills program volunteer, Vlada recruited track teammates to accompany her to a local elementary school, where they became role models for athletic achievement among the children.
“It’s amazing how playing with fourth graders for two hours will change your day,” she says. “It makes you want to contribute more to your community.” The Life Skills experience also inspired Vlada to take part in the HOPE Alternative Spring Break Program as a volunteer at a California community center.
Vlada says she also found ample inspiration in Stonehill’s classrooms. A course with Professor Allyson Sheckler encouraged Vlada to channel her interest in creative arts into a career in graphic design, which she is currently pursuing. “Her high standards made me want to make her proud,” says Vlada. “It made me want more out of myself.”