COLUMN: Bona, VCU’s spots in NCAA field secured before A-10 title game

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — Win, and you’re in.

That’s the premise of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament each year.

Regardless of its regular-season performance beforehand, a conference tournament championship secures a team’s spot in the NCAA tournament field. While that remains true for this year’s A-10 championship game, the stakes of the game are different than in recent years.

Both finalists have done enough to deserve a spot in the 68-team NCAA bracket. For No. 1 St. Bonaventure and No. 2 VCU, Sunday’s title game at University of Dayton Arena likely won’t determine whether each side gets to play in the NCAA tournament.

Instead, this year’s final will be for bragging rights, for NCAA seeding, and, for SBU, the chance to make history as the second team in program history to be crowned A-10 champions.

When the Bonnies arrived in Richmond last week for their first two A-10 tournament games, their postseason prospectus looked different than it did after SBU posted back-to-back convincing wins over No. 9 Duquesne and No. 4 Saint Louis in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Now, as the A-10 regular-season champion that has advanced to the conference’s championship game, it would take an 1800s-style Wild West robbery by the NCAA selection committee to leave the Bonnies out of the tournament.

As of Monday, the NCAA’s “NET” ranking, the largely mysterious, overarching ranking that the committee prioritizes, ranks Bona 27th in the country, and VCU 35th. Ken Pomeroy, famous for his “KenPom” rankings, also has the Bonnies at 27th, while VCU checks in at 43rd.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, one of the nation’s most popular “bracketologists,” predicts the Bonnies to be a ninth-seed in the tournament, while listing the Rams as a No. 11 seed. Lunardi said on Sunday that he anticipates Bona will be in the NCAA field whether it wins the A-10 title game or not.

So, looking at the situation realistically, both A-10 finalists will be playing in the NCAA tournament whether they’re crowned league champions or not. This differs from SBU’s last trip to the A-10 final, when it needed to win the 2019 game to be included in the NCAA bracket.

The Bonnies lost that game, ending their season at the Barclays Center as abruptly as they had gotten there. The year before, Davidson upset SBU in the A-10 semifinals before upsetting top-seeded Rhode Island a day later to win the tournament. If the Wildcats had not done so, they would have been left out.

This is the first time since 2013 that the tournament’s top two seeds will play in its final. Bona’s only A-10 championship came the year before that, when the Andrew Nicholson-led Bonnies beat Xavier in the final to clinch an NCAA tournament spot that they wouldn’t have received without winning the tournament.

This year, that’s not the case. SBU has built a sufficient tournament resume over the last three months, compiling a 15-4 record while finishing 11-4 in the A-10 during the regular season. VCU’s situation is similar, as the Rams are 19-6 overall with a 10-4 A-10 record.

This year, it’s about pride and the chance to become a champion. For three Bona starters, it’s the chance to avenge 2019’s A-10 final loss.

The 2021 A-10 champion will receive the immediate satisfaction of knowing that it has reserved the league’s coveted automatic NCAA bid. The runner-up, barring an inexplicable snub, will hear its name called just hours later during the NCAA selection show.

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies’ Recent Play Gives Hope For The Future

[St. Bonaventure may be on the outside looking in at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but recent play has given hope for the future – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor-in-Chief, @RMLazo13

BRONX, N.Y. — Everyone knew it would be tough for St. Bonaventure to even come close to experiencing the same type of success they had during last season’s magical run to the Sweet 16, but the surprise is success now comes in small increments.

The Bonnies compiled a 31-4 record, capturing the regular season Atlantic 10 Conference champion crown and one Jessica Jenkins’ 3-pointer from being the outright champs, but fell short in the tournament finals against Dayton. Graduating three senior starters in Megan Van Tatenhove, Jenkins and Armelia Horton, part of the winningest class in program history, didn’t help either.

However, this Bona squad still had six players returning from last year’s squad, three of which who figured to be instrumental in continuing the winning tradition. But injuries struck, knocking Chelsea Bowker and her career 39 percent 3-point shooting out for the season.

CeCe Dixon averaged 7.6 points per game last season and was expected to pick up some of the scoring slack, but while she has modestly improved her points per game average to 8.4, it has not been the improvement Bona had hoped.

Dixon’s struggles have mirrored the struggles of the team —  a season once full of hope turned to one of lessons to be learned. And against a Fordham squad that eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the first time in program history, school was in session once again.

Bona won the opening tip and as almost as quick as they gained possession, Fordham struck quick by capturing an early 12-4 advantage. But as Bona has done all season, they fought back almost immediately and this run was led by Dixon.

The 5-foot-3 guard nailed two 3-pointers including one in which she was fouled on and completed a conventional 4-point play to cut the deficit to 12-11.

“That’s us,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said of his young team. “That’s been the most frustrating part of this season is that we haven’t embraced that. But in the last three games at least, we have. We can control how hard we play. We may not be great shooters, but we can play really hard and give ourselves a chance.”

Yes, small baby-steps for these Bonnies.

Slowly, but surely they have learned to play hard no matter what the scoreboard might say or the situation is dictating. It’s a trademark of a Crowley coached team and it finally surfaced in a loss to No. 14 Dayton last week.

Trailing by 13 points with just 37 seconds remaining, the Bonnies fought to the bitter end, stealing inbounds passes and swishing threes with ruthless efficiency to pull as close as 65-61. But that was as close as they would come.

Against Fordham, Bona trailed 41-27 at the half only to roar out of the locker room on a mission. After their No. 14 ranked 3-point defense surrender nine 3-pointers in the first half, Bona locked down and contested every shot. It was their defense which fueled the offense as they went on a 20-7 run to open up the half.

But once again, their comeback efforts were for not as they could not finish the deal.

“It’s good to see them buying in,” Crowley said. “We’ll see if they continue to and that can give us some real good momentum as we head into the offseason.”

The dreaded offseason word.

Yes, the defending regular season A-10 Champions were officially eliminated from the A-10 Tournament with last night’s loss, leaving them on the outside looking in after an historical season.

But Crowley had a point.

While the success may not be easy to find on a grisly 9-19 record, including nine losses in a row, progress is being made.

Crowley has overseen rebuilding projects before and is doing so once again. For three consecutive seasons, Bona’s head man oversaw a nine-win team, but then something clicked. The team no longer feared opponents and their play improved much like it’s doing again.

The last freshmen class turned into the winningest in program history. While it would be unfair to compare the two, there are plenty of similarities between them and it begins with Katie Healy.

Healy has improved as she has played more games, especially within conference play. The freshman forward is second on the team, averaging 11 points and nabbing 6.8 rebounds per contest. However, it’s her game, one that includes polished footwork in the paint and a deft touch from the outside that has made some to compare her to Van Tatenhove.

Emily Michael has not scored a lot this season, but she has started in 20 consecutive games, becoming a reliable option for Crowley. The Ohio native continually makes the right decisions and plays tough defense with an ability to hit from the outside at a 30 percent clip.

Even Nyla Rueter has come alive in conference play, scoring a career-high 15 points against Charlotte. Her 38 percent shooting from the field will only improve as she becomes more confident in her stroke.

Add to them the return of Dixon, Bowker and Doris Ortega who leads the Bonnies in points per game, rebounds and assists and suddenly the team looks promising once again.

“We know what they can be, but we don’t see it on a consistent basis,” Crowley said after his team’s loss to Fordham. “It’s been good the past couple of games where we’ve seen that consistent effort. Now that we have that and as we head into the offseason, we can really focus on getting people better.”

A win against La Salle won’t mean anything to the Bonnies record, but it would send Bona into the offseason on a high note, setting the stage for a rapid turnaround next season with a group who has learned how to compete in the A-10 Conference.

Walker Sets Example For Young Bona Squad

[Alaina Walker drives to the basket against Indiana last season and has to do more of the same this year as one of the team leaders – Photo courtesy of]

By Joe Pinter, News Editor, @jpinter93

After an injury to senior Chelsea Bowker, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies women’s basketball team is down to one four-year player—Alaina Walker.

Walker, having started every game her sophomore and junior seasons, will lead this young Bona team and she relishes the chance.

“(Chelsea and I) came in together and even though we can’t leave together, we’re both experienced,” said Walker. “With having six new freshmen on the team, that’s what you need.”

The Bonnies will look to Walker, a guard, for her leadership but also for her rebounding and defense. She was named to the 2012-13 Preseason Second-Team All-Big Four.

As a junior, Walker averaged career-high totals of 6.3 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game. She had double-digit rebounds three times last season.

“Hopefully that’ll be her legacy going forward,” said assistant coach Ryan Gensler. “She’ll be able to continue doing that during the year and be real aggressive on both ends of the court.”

In the Atlantic 10’s preseason predictions, the Bonnies were picked to finish seventh in the 16-team league. Walker admits that the team’s biggest obstacle this year shouldn’t be talent.

“It’s just getting out there and not worrying about the little things and distractions,” Walker said. “Just tune that out and go out every day and play hard, play with consistency and I think the results will take care of themselves.”

Last year, the Pomona, N.Y. native was one of two players to start every game. The other, Jessica Jenkins, is playing professionally in Iceland after many regarded her as a potential WNBA prospect.

Walker’s defense has continued to pace the Bonnies. The A-10 coaches picked her for the Preseason All-Defensive Team, an honor that she takes pride in.

“My expectations are even higher than they were last year,” she said.

Gensler seems to agree with Walker. He believes that one of the best defensive players in the A-10 is a great leader for the younger girls.  

“If she is making it tough for the freshmen to bring up the ball then they are learning against one of the best defenders in the league,” said Gensler. “Staying consistent with that effort everyday sends a powerful message that should ripple down to the underclassmen that hey, I have to bring it just as strong everyday with that consistent effort.”

Walker believes that having six freshmen and three new starters on the team can have a big impact on the season. The atmosphere will definitely be different than last year’s.

“I’m taking more of a leadership role and trying to get back to the point we were at last year,” she said. “And that’s either being shown through my effort, my defensive play or just being more vocal. That’s what I have to do.”

And if Walker can continue to lead by example, the freshmen will pick up the system faster and the learning curve becomes shorter for the young but talented Bona squad.

Column: Team Effort Leads To Big Win

[St.Bonaventure regroups in the huddle following a timeout – Photo courtesy of]

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

Take this scenario — What happens when Alaina Walker and Doris Ortega combine to shoot 1-for-10?

It means that the Bonnies must have lost, right?

Not even close.

The Bonnies beat Binghamton 61-34 in front of 1,121 spectators to open their season.

After trailing 12-11 with 11:03 remaining in the first half, the Bonnies went on a 22-6 run to end the half.

Katie Healy was a reason why.

In her first collegiate game, Healy torched the Bearcats defense with 8 first half points.

“I saw that some of the players were struggling,” Healy said after the game. “And my coaches told me that I need to step it up, really bring some energy.”

Healy provided the necessary offensive spark around the midway mark of the first half by utilizing her distinct height advantage.

“Katie gave us a presence inside,” Bona head coach Jim Crowley said of his freshman.

Healy’s inside presence gave the Bonnies open shots, which junior Ashley Zahn didn’t pass up.

Zahn, who scored a career-high 14 points, provided two 3-pointers and three deep 2-pointers.

But the junior wasn’t hot from the get-go, missing her first two 3-point attempts before settling down.

“Me and coach talked about this week is how you forget about your misses, you correct them and then you keep going from there,” Zahn said.

Zahn also talked about team defense.

“In the exhibition game we had trouble helping off the post, so we worked on that all this week,” said Zahn. “(We) really drilled it.”

A player who stepped up on defense was freshman Emily Michael.

Michael had two steals and played great on-ball defense on the Bearcats’ Stephanie Jensen.

“I am really confident in Emily’s abilities, so is the team,” said Crowley. “We know we are going to get effort and we know she has really good feet.”

Michael, who also had three assists and two 3-pointers in her college debut, realized the importance of team defense.

“As a team, we work on defense all the time and it is really what we feed off of to get our offense going,” Michael said.

Michael’s ball pressure helped force 16 Bearcats’ turnovers that resulted in 22 Bona points.

“A goal I set for myself and the team was that I was going to bring it on defense and I think today is worked out,” Michael said.

Defense has been the staple of Crowley’s system for years and the Bonnies tied a school record held by last year’s team by allowing just 34 points.

Even while many saw glimpses of a defense that finished first in the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense last year, Crowley was not pleased.

“We made a lot of mistakes defensively in the second half. We were very fortunate they missed some easy shots,” Crowley said. “But that’s what first games are for.”

Crowley had an important message to his team after the win.

“I told them after this game, they’re never going to satisfy me, but as long as they’re working really hard to satisfy each other and understand that accountability then we will be fine with whatever the scoreboard says.”

Behind The Wolfpack: Bona Freshmen Provide Spark In Win

[Jessica Jenkins and Megan Van Tatenhove are just two of the seniors who have casted a shadow over St. Bonaventure’s freshman – Photo courtesy of]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

Jim Crowley, his staff and players stood on the half court line on Bob Lanier Court in the Reilly Center as an Atlantic 10 regular season champions and Sweet 16 banners were raised to the rafters.

In their minds was the success of its past senior class, winners of 98 games – most in program history – and the ones who led the team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

While they are no longer suiting up for the Brown and White, their memory is everlasting in the product now seen on the court.

And the shadows of those players is casted entirely on the six freshmen entrusted to continue building on the foundation that is laid before them. In the season opener against Binghamton, the freshmen showed the promise of a brighter future mixed with immediate success.

The Bonnies (1-0) struggled early, falling behind 10-3, before utilizing a 30 to 6 run to take over the game and never looked back. The 61-34 victory tied a program record for  second fewest points allowed in a game and perhaps set the tone for the rest of the season.

“We didn’t start well and were settling for jump shots,” Crowley said following the game. “But I thought Emily and Tatiana came in and gave us a boost with their attacking ball pressure.”

Emily Michael, a freshman guard, entered the game in the middle of the first half and immediately made an impact. The 5-foot-8 guard zeroed in on Binghamton’s guards and did not let them out of her sight as she picked their pockets for two steals on the game.

“We work on defense all the time, and it’s really what we feed off of to get our offense going,” Michael said after her 2-for-6 shooting performance for 6 points. “The goal that I set for myself, and the team, was me bringing it on defense, and today it worked out.”

However, Michael was not the only freshman who made an impact. Katie Healy entered the game and utilized her height advantage in the interior.

Healy showed off a great post game, using quick pivots and surprising strength to put the ball in the basket. But she also showed some decent range, hitting shots from 15 feet out as well, similar to Megan Van Tatenhove.

The 6-foot-1 forward went 5-for-8 from the field for 12 points and nabbed seven rebounds to solidify her presence inside.

“My teammates and coaches said I needed to step it up,” Healy said modestly after the game. “And it’s all a credit to the post players that are on my team that go hard against me in practice. Through that I’m able to get better, and it shows on the court.”

Getting better in practice – a Crowley team staple. His teams are never going to be the most talented in the country, but they play the game the right away and execute to their strengths.

“We are never going to win the lay-up line,” Crowley said during last year’s run. “We’re not flashy, but we’re smart and do the little things.”

And it’s still the case with an entirely different team. Bona committed just seven turnovers in a game that 11 players saw game action, including five of the six freshmen.

While Crowley was pleased with the effort of his team, especially the freshmen, he is still the all-too-concerned coach.

“I have confidence in my team, and I have no confidence in my team,” ESPN’s National Coach of the Year said. “I know how good they are, but what I don’t have confidence is them showing they can do it all the time.”

But with the few returners pushing the freshmen in practice coupled with immediate success on the court, St. Bonaventure’s future is looking brighter than many assumed after losing four special seniors.

Behind The Wolfpack: New Era Begins For The Bonnies With A Win

[Demitrius Conger and the rest of the Bonnies employed their havoc defense in a 65-55 win over Bethune-Cookman – Photo by Melissa Scott]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

The Atlantic 10 Conference Champions and NCAA Tournament banners were raised high into the rafters, officially closing the curtain on the magical season that occurred in Olean, N.Y. last year.

St. Bonaventure raised the curtain on a new season, a new era of Bonnies basketball, as they faced off with Bethune-Cookman in their season opener at the Reilly Center in front of 4,215 spectators.

And the Brown and White did not disappoint their fans, dropping the Wildcats by a 65-55 score – the lowest amount of points surrendered in a season opener since 2000 in a 68-53 victory over New Mexico State.

After scoring 104 points in their exhibition victory, much was made of the Bonnies up tempo offense, but it was slowed down considerably by the Wildcats.

“They delayed the ball, holding it for 20-25 seconds,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said after his team’s victory. “For the most part, we were disciplined, but they got us of out our rhythm a little bit.”

That would be an understatement.

At times, the Bonnies (1-0) looked lost on offense as they just tossed the ball around the perimeter while looking for holes that would not open up. Time and time again, they would struggle to find an open man and end up taking a bad shot, resulting in shooting just 8-for-22 in the first half.

“We were really stagnant,” Matthew Wright said after his 13-point performance on 5-for-8 shooting. “You can’t be stagnant on a zone. There has to be player ball movement. We were too unselfish and hesitant to shoot.”

Wildcats (0-1) head coach Gravelle Craig said he took the Bonnies out of their comfort zone by playing zone.

“I saw that they were bigger and more athletic than us,” Craig said after the game. “I rather have had them shoot jump shots and working hard for shots then have them driving and dunking over us.”

But halfway through the second half, the Bona offense erupted with two consecutive 3-pointers from Demitrius Conger and Wright to jumpstart the struggling offense, producing a 13-4 run.

Forcing turnovers led to easy baskets, as the Bonnies displayed their own version of the havoc defense, converting the miscues into 21 points, sealing the too-close-for-comfort victory.

Welcome to the new era of St. Bonaventure basketball.

No longer do the Bonnies have a star player to bail them out when things are not going their way. Instead, they have a multitude of experienced players who are capable of taking over a game at any point.

And on this night, that player was Eric Mosley.

“I thought Eric was the player of the game,” Schmidt said of his offensive sparkplug.

Mosley entered the game and became instant offense for St. Bonaventure. The senior guard dropped in 14 points on 4-for-8 shooting including 3-for-6 from 3-point range.

But he didn’t stop there.

His intense defensive pressure led to two steals and points for the Bonnies when they needed them most.

However, no one had a bigger impact on the defensive side of the ball than Youssou Ndoye, Bona’s new starting center.

Ndoye may have struggled from the field as he unveiled his Nicholson-esqe jump-hook, but his five blocks on defense — a career high — changed the game.

“I was trying to be aggressive because I wasn’t making my shots,” Ndoye said after his 2-for-6 performance. “I had to do something on defense to help my team.”

Truth be told, it was a total team effort to earn the win as nine Bona players recorded points in the opener. And Wright said they are only going to get better.

“We are nowhere near where we want to be,” Wright said. “We have the blueprint of what we want to do from last year. We’re just going to get better.”

Learning a new offense and defense, the Bonnies struggled early and were brought to the limit. But the winning attitude from last year resurfaced as they answered every Wildcats’ run. Time will tell if that attitude will continue to lead to victories.

Ndoye’s Improvement Bodes Well For The Bonnies

[Youssou Ndoye soars for a dunk last season against Rhode Island – Photo courtesy of]

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

After losing the production of Andrew Nicholson and Da’Quan Cook from last year’s team, St. Bonaventure turns to Youssou Ndoye to supply the force inside.

The Brown and White have a deep and experienced team, but one that lacks bigs. The 7-footer from Senegal is the only active Bona player taller than 6-foot-8 on the roster.

“We are very limited as far as bigs and size,” senior guard Michael Davenport said.

And in a league full of talented big men, the Bonnies needed Ndoye to develop his game and he has done just that. Attending the same big man camp that turned Nicholson into a star, Ndoye has already improved greatly.

“He used be like that tripod right there that skinny, but in the summer he took a lot of time to work on his body,” Davenport said as he pointed toward a skinny cameraman. “He’s gained a lot of muscle.”

But the gained muscle won’t prevent Ndoye from picking up the cheap fouls that made him find a spot on the bench. Davenport said that it’s up to everyone on the court to help their big man out.

“The other four guys out there have to protect Youssou because at all times we need him out on the floor,” Davenport said. “We don’t need him in foul trouble. That comes with staying up on defensive assignments.”

Ndoye excited the Brown and White faithful last year with the energy and raw ability he brought to the floor, but his goal was to turn the raw ability into sustained talent.

“I went to the camp that Andrew (Nicholson) used to go for the last three years,” Ndoye said.“I spent like a month lifting, conditioning and basketball stuff. I wanted to get better in all areas of my game.”

And it seemed like he did just that when the Bonnies took on Mansfield this past weekend during their exhibition tune-up. While the Mountaineers are a Division II school, it was still obvious how much the Bona big man improved.

Ndoye shot 5-for-8 from the field for 14 points in just 21 minutes of action. And two of those points may have come on the most impressive dunk one will ever see.

His footwork was better around the basket, his shot seemed to fall easier and his extra strength helped him dominate the smaller opponent

Head coach Mark Schmidt said that while most freshman do not play well, he liked the way Ndoye continued to develop in tough circumstances.

“He wouldn’t have played a lot last year if Marquise (Simmons) didn’t get hurt, but he learned,” he said. “The only way you gain some experience is by playing and getting into the fire and getting your feet wet and I thought he did a great job as the season went along and as he played more he got better.”

And that experience will only help Ndoye and St. Bonaventure defend their Atlantic 10 Conference title.

“I think that first year was a tremendous learning experience for him and it gave him some confidence because there was times during the season that he played really well and that’s going to be a carryover hopefully to this year,” Schmidt said.

However, the Bonnies do not need Ndoye to dominate to win games, they just need him to be himself.

“We’re not expecting him to replace Andrew — no one is going to replace him. We’re expecting him to be Youssou,” Schmidt said. “To be able to run the court, score inside, play that physical game, be a guy that we can rely on and be a guy that can do the dirty work for us inside.”

And if Ndoye can do just that, the Brown and White faithful will be witnesses to plenty of wins in the Reilly Center and the continued development of a talented big man.

Editor Thanks Bonaventure Community

[All the ruined items being placed outside the Lazo’s house just two days after the Hurricane ripped through Rockaway – Photo by Ryan Lazo]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

If there was ever any doubt in my mind on whether I chose to attend the right university, there is no question I know the answer now.

St. Bonaventure University is a part of me forever after what occurred over the past week.

As most people know, my family and I were badly affected by Hurricane Sandy. We live in Rockaway Park in Queens, N.Y. My house sits one block away from Jamaica Bay and one block away from the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s a beautiful place to live, and I’ve cherished all my memories I have growing up in this tight-knit community.

However, Sandy changed everything.

The Category 1 hurricane roared into the peninsula and caused immediate havoc with a record storm surge of 10 to 12 feet. It immediately brought flooding to the area, and coupled with high tide and a full moon, the impact was devastating.

In the few times I was able to contact my family, they told me what was going on — flood water engulfing our entire first floor of the house and fires springing up all over my community.

I left for home as soon as I could and saw the damage first hand.

Everything was gone —My family’s clothes, furniture, my brother’s toys, DVDs and video games.

To help Ryan and his family, click here to visit the donation page.

The worst was cleaning up the photo albums which held pictures of my childhood, vacations and other cherished memories.

It hurt to see my mother immediately begin to cry as she watched my dad, my brother and me get to work and try to clean up the place that was once our home.

The boardwalk that brought tourists to our area and made it a must-travel summer destination, destroyed. Businesses gone in the blink of an eye, including my own father’s restaurant.

But then something unexpected happened.

Jim Mahar led BonaResponds to my community and, specifically, my home. The group, filled with some friends, Bona students and alumni, helped us clean it up in a matter of hours, tearing down walls, moving anything that could be salvaged and helping boost the morale of my family.

In addition to the immediate action of BonaResponds, my family and I were swarmed with texts, phone calls, messages and tweets from those within the Bona community reaching out with support.

And that support turned into a donation page, one that promised to help me and my family begin the recovery process.

In a time of need, the Bonaventure community showed its true colors.

It’s a community that is caring of each other, one that is not afraid to reach out and help those in need. Not only were they able to help me, but they were able to help my community, and the strangers we worked with quickly became family.

There are not enough words in the English language that can truly describe how thankful I am.

This university has not only given me an education and the tools to claim a job in the workforce — they gave me another family.

While a simple “Thank You” will not suffice for how much everyone within this amazing Bonaventure family has helped me, it truly is meant with all my heart.

The saying really is true — “Once a Bonnie, always a Bonnie.”

And I will never forget it.

[A video compilation of the damage Hurricane Sandy did to the Rockaways]