NCAA Student-Leadership Forum provides unique opportunity
Nov. 13, 2012
By Gary Ozzello
Proud not only to be standout member of the school’s track and field team and the softball team, respectively, but proud to have been selected to represent Colorado State at the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum held in Dallas, Tex., earlier this month.
“It was an honor to be selected, and it was a privilege to represent Colorado State.” Butler said. “I appreciated having the opportunity, but I really want to give special thanks to the academic coordinators who nominated me.”
Ortega felt the same way.
“It was a great experience, but it was an honor to represent Colorado State,” she said. “It was a great experience.”
Butler is majoring in Human Development and Family Studies, and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs.
He takes special interest in the assistance the academic coordinators provide he and hundreds of fellow Rams for more reasons that meet the eye.
“I want to be an academic coordinator,” Butler emphasized.
Ortega, meanwhile, is majoring in Liberal Arts with a minor in Criminal Justice.
During the leadership forum, both said they learned a great deal. But no lesson was more important that what they experienced from a military veteran who returned to the United States and became homeless.
Student-athletes attending the conference filled packages with home care products for military veterans in duress. Having heard the veteran’s story, it provided those attending a one-on-one connection with the person.
The veteran challenged them to do as much as possible in the 90 minutes allotted for the project. In assembly-line fashion, the group of student-athletes more than met his challenge.
“We did 3,500 packages in 20 minutes,” Ortega beamed. “He was a great inspiration, hearing his story. He was a military veteran, who had a degree but came home and got involved with drugs and alcohol and lost his family. But he turned his life around and got his family back.”
Now thriving, the individual was an advocate for an organization which provides support and assistance for veterans who face a similar fate upon returning home.
“The organization got him back on his feet,” Butler said.
It makes a difference, changing lives,” Butler said of the community service project. “You see the impact it made on his life, and you feel personally connected.”
Ortega wonders how much more the group could have done with more packages available.
Butler, like Ortega, is a member of Colorado State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). And he plans to bring his story about the community service project.
“We talked about the importance of the personal connection. I want us to create that one-on-one connection, and for us to see the impact it has on the lives of others,” he said.
He was quick to point out he and fellow SAAC members annually participate in community service projects such as a Read-A-Thon in local elementary schools, and the Cans Around the Oval food drive sponsored by the university. But he wants the more personal connection with the lives the projects touch, similar to what he experienced in Dallas.
He also said the conference provided him a glimpse, in visiting former student-athletes also in attendance, of what he can accomplish in his field of study.
Butler is one of the Rams’ top middle distance runners. He fought through what he called a down year in 2011-12 while suffering from an illness. But he figures he’s on track for a successful year, now healthy and ready.
Butler, a junior from Findlay, Ohio, has sights set on a top-three conference finish in his specialty, 800 meters, both during the upcoming indoor and outdoor seasons. Add to that, he’d like to also qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Butler came to Colorado State after an illustrious career at Liberty Benton High, where he earned 16 conference titles and was named all-state 10 times. He was a four-time state champion in the 800 meters during his prep career.
Between academic coursework, athletic training and competition, and his involvement with SAAC, Butler somehow finds the time to be an active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where one of his mentors is former Rams football placekicker and track long jumper Jason Smith.
Ortega, meanwhile wants to carry lessons learned at the forum back to her SAAC members, as well as other student-athletes.
“It really showed me some things I need to work on as a person,” she said. “I think I am a better person.”
“The thing I liked most was that everyone comes as a leader. There is no motivation needed. You are working toward one goal,” she said.
Ortega said it didn’t take long to recognize how powerful the program was for her.
“I felt it … I could see the difference in myself and others,” she explained. “Now, I want to take what I learned and get others (at Colorado State) up to speed.”
Ortega took a circuitous route to Colorado State, playing one season at Missouri before transferring to become a part of the Rams’ program. She was an outstanding prep player at Erie High under legendary coach Bob Bledsoe.
She was a three-time all-conference selection, and in 2008, was named the state’s Class 3A Player of the Year. Three times in four years she was on the team (2005, 2006 and 2008), the Tigers won the state title.
A year ago, she led the Rams in batting with a .357 average, including three home runs and 29 runs batted in. Ortega started all of the Rams’ 51 games as the team’s shortstop. She helped the Rams to a 29-22 record, including an 8-4 mark in Mountain West games.