"Day With The Demons" a Success with Students
Oct. 24, 2012
CHICAGO - The journey from Danville to DePaul encompassed so much more than your normal 137-mile field trip from east-central Illinois.
What the seventh graders from North Ridge Middle School experienced on Oct. 12 was the feeling of a family welcoming back one of its own.
Former Blue Demon women's basketball player Jen Juergens couldn't think of a better way to illustrate the core value of a college education than to introduce those school kids to life in Lincoln Park.
As coordinator of the "Day With The Demons" program, DePaul community outreach administrator Dave Corzine had all the elements in place for a memorable visit.
The kids met with coach Doug Bruno and heard stories about how their teacher contributed to the legacy of the Blue Demons' success.
They watched a volleyball practice and exchanged high-fives with coach Nadia Edwards and her players.
There was athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto talking about the significance of Title IX in women's athletics. Hall-of-Fame softball coach Eugene Lenti hit home with his speech about "mastering your craft."
Men's basketball player Peter Ryckbosch told the school children about life as a student-athlete while former basketball player Mario Stula gave them a look at how a student from Croatia ended up in Lincoln Park.
Athletics Academic Advising's Tracy Moss impressed the North Ridge students with how well DePaul student-athletes balance athletics and academics.
Karen Loiacono and Patrick Condon took them inside the world of marketing college athletics and showed them marketing videos.
And to top it off, there was a pizza lunch in the conference room courtesy of Ponsetto.
All of which made quite a lasting impression on these young minds.
"It's not every day you get to meet an Olympic coach (Bruno), a former NBA player (Corzine), and a professional volleyball player (Edwards)," said Naiya Darden.
"We learned that on game day DePaul's players aren't allowed to go shopping or buy makeup," said Juriah Morris.
In a letter, Nicholas Miller wrote: "Thank you for letting us meet the athletic director. We wouldn't have met her if it wasn't for Title IX.
"Coach Bruno was really cool. He told us about the times he had Ms. Juergens as a basketball player. It was cool to hear they won a lot of games just because of her."
Juergens played with the Blue Demons in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. As a senior, she received DePaul's Maggie Dixon Captain's Award, the Pat Ewers Courage Award and the Shirley Becker Academic Award.
The students Juergens brought are part of a district-wide program that seeks to develop their skills and prepare them for college.
"Watching volleyball practice was definitely one of the highlights," Juergens said. "Many students were amazed by the skill levels of the players.
"They were impressed by how organized practice was and how disciplined the athletes were to move from one drill to the next. Several students noted the high level of teamwork displayed by the volleyball team.
"The kids were amazed by the academic and athletic success of DePaul's athletes, and I feel that has motivated them to work on their own time management skills. It was eye-opening for them to see how student-athletes at the college level must balance their schedules to get everything done."
Juergens thoroughly enjoyed her return to campus and appreciated how Ponsetto provided students with an inside look into how an athletic department is run.
"DePaul's athletic department has always felt like a family to me," Juergens said. "I think I understand that even more now that I am out of college. No matter what was going on, everyone was willing to take time out of their day to lend a hand.
"Even with the media day going on, Coach Bruno and the entire women's basketball staff took time to let the students take over the office and make their day in Chicago that much more special. They all loved hearing the stories from Coach Bruno about my playing days.
"Coach Bruno has had a tremendous impact on me as a player, person, and as a teacher. He is a true teacher of the game. The expectations of my students at North Ridge Middle School often mirror those I learned while playing for Coach Bruno.
"My students are truly thankful for everything DePaul had to offer. They will be talking about this for a long time."