The Endicott College Athletics and Recreation department and their student-athletes have a long history of being role models and leaders on campus through programs like L.E.A.D. (Leaders of the Endicott Athletics Department) and other clubs and organizations, so when COVID-19 began to affect their Nest, they stepped up to the challenge of keeping their home and fellow Gulls healthy by leading the large-volume COVID-19 testing charge needed to make their on-campus experience possible.
“I believe the most rewarding part of this experience has been watching the improvements over time. The COVID-19 Testing Center itself as well as the school has done a phenomenal job adapting. We have come such a long way from when we first started testing in the gym. In the beginning, there was no system and no structure, and now, thanks mainly to Mark Kulakowski, the Testing Center is a model for efficiency.”—Megan Smith ’21
The effort began last August when the College began the planning process for bringing people back to in-person campus living and working. Mark Kulakowski, Assistant Director of Athletic Facilities/Contest Management was asked to lead the initial charge. He says, “The Athletics & Recreation Department, as a whole, was asked to help out with the testing site. I was lucky enough to be asked to take the lead on this. The athletics staff, along with other faculty and staff from all departments, chipped in to make it a huge success.”
Once they had their feet wet and the school year began, Kulakowski began seeking student-athlete involvement. “As we expanded to weekly testing once the school year started, I asked and received approval to advertise the job to our work-study students and I was able to get great participation. In knowing most of our student-athletes personally, I was able to put together a great staff of athletes and non-athletes. We are now 100% student-staffed,” he says.
Choosing student-athletes to work on the frontlines was a wise choice given their many leadership-level skills and their desire to compete, safely, even during a crisis. One such student-athlete is Megan Smith ’21, who has been impressed with and grateful to be a part of the “team sport” that is fighting COVID-19.
She says, “One attribute that student-athletes have in common is that team-player/can-do attitude. The pandemic has been a team effort. Getting everyone on board and on the same page has been hard, but not impossible. The Endicott student-athletes want nothing more than to be able to play the sport that they love while representing our school, making them motivated workers! As a student-athlete, I am grateful for our Testing Center and all of the workers making our ability to play possible.”
But Smith is far from alone, Kulakowski and James Daley, Assistant Athletic Director, Athletic Performance, Health Care Administrator have been leading a team made up of athletes from women's soccer, cross country, athletic training, women's basketball, women's rugby, crew, softball, field hockey, and football. The representation from teams across so many different sports has been nothing short of inspiring. After all, their jobs are quite important and involved.
To perform the job of COVID-19 Testing Observer, Kulakowski says, “Our students initiate, assist, observe, and manage samples for routine testing on all our students and staff. We run about 2,500 tests a week and they are all extremely vital to our success.”
Smith values her work at the COVID-19 Testing Center. She says, “I enjoy my role of being a COVID Tester because I feel as if I am helping out and making a difference. I know we wouldn’t be allowed to be at school without following the guidelines and protocols of the CDC, Massachusetts Public Health, and Endicott, therefore I know that by working I am doing something to keep us all on campus!”
Overall, this is a story of pride in Endicott students. They are strong and focused, diligent, and driven, and above all, they care about Team Endicott. Kulakowski says it best when he says, “I am extremely proud of all our students, not just the student-athletes, but I will say that the student-athletes working at the COVID-19 Testing Center are amazing, as they are also balancing schoolwork, strength and conditioning, practices, and games. I am very proud to work alongside such great students.
“Our athletes understand being part of a team and that no individual can win a game. It's been so important that our student-athletes have stepped up with the testing because they understand the importance of pitching in for the greater good while being able to practice and play games.”
“In knowing most of our student-athletes personally, I was able to put together a great staff of athletes and non-athletes.”—Mark Kulakowski, Assistant Director of Athletic Facilities/Contest Management
Can we get a Go Gulls? They’ve certainly earned it! Here’s to a future athletics season without a pandemic, but with an equal measure of leadership.
Header photo: Student-athlete Testing Center workers pose in front of the Callahan Center (L–R: Hannah Lederman '23, Amelia George '23, Sierra Miller '22, Kaitlyn Quinn '23, Julia Clark '23, Jackie Ruggerio '23, Megan Smith '21, Cian Marderos '24, Caitlin Ryan '23, Olivia Duncan '22)