Student-Athlete Mentors practice team building in preparing to welcome and help freshmen student athletes in their academic and athletic transition to college. There are 32 Student-Athlete Mentors this year. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Leading and learning: Flight 45’s Student-Athlete Mentor initiative


The Student-Athlete Mentor group, a part of Lehigh’s athletic leadership development program Flight 45, aids freshmen student athletes in their transition to collegiate athletics and academics.  

The program is currently run by three captains: men’s golf senior David Hurly, women’s soccer senior Ryelle Shuey and softball fifth-year Carley Barjaktarovich.

Coordinators Julie Ammary, Caitlin Gillard and Katie Guynn also assist in training 32 mentors on how to best help freshmen athletes. 

Hurly, Shuey and Barjaktarovich all said the experience they had as freshmen athletes in the mentor program inspired them to lead the program now.

“I had an up and down time my first semester, and having (Student-Athlete Mentors) as support was very helpful, so I immediately wanted to get involved with the process and take the things that I had been through and hopefully help some first-years,” Hurly said.

Barjaktarovich said she has been involved in the mentor program since the spring of her freshman year. 

She said she decided to become a co-captain after participating in the program when some of her teammates were mentors.

“Seeing their leadership mixed with the experience I had with my (Student-Athlete Mentors) made me really want to become a part of the program and grow individually, as well as give back to the program for what it gave to me my freshman year,” Barjaktarovich said.

Shuey said she has been involved in the mentor program for three years. After having a positive experience as a freshman, she said she wanted to support the incoming freshman class. 

As leaders of the program, Shuey said she and the two other co-captains have the opportunity to facilitate meetings with the other mentors and meet with the other Flight 45 leadership groups to hear what they are planning.

The Student-Athlete Mentor program is just one of the five branches of Flight 45, which also includes Student-Athletes of Color, Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping, Tackling Inclusion, Diversity and Equity and the Student-Athlete Council. 

To join any of the groups, Shuey said athletes go through an interview process to ensure they are being placed in the best Flight 45 leadership group based on qualifications, experiences and interests. This year, there were over 90 applicants total for all five programs, which she feels reflects how respected Lehigh Athletics is. 

“It’s quite a process that goes behind it to build great groups, but it’s really phenomenal because so many people want to get involved,” Shuey said.

Once the mentor group was formed, Hurly said they trained for about seven to eight weeks in the spring. Their main focus was team building to ensure they were a tight-knit group when it was time to welcome new athletes to campus. 

“One thing I really pride our (Student-Athlete Mentors) on, and I think this was very much led by our leadership this year, is that we all really are friends with each other,” Hurly said.

Throughout the school year, Shuey said the mentors meet every other week to plan what they will go over in “huddles,” which are small group meetings between the freshmen and mentors.

Shuey said some of the huddle meetings so far have focused on transition management, personal growth, time management, mental and physical well-being and stress versus distress.

All three captains said it is important to let freshmen know their mental health and safety are the biggest priorities.

“Realistically, we all know we’re not going to necessarily make a difference for every single kid,” Hurly said. “But, if we can each individually make a difference in one person’s life, that’s huge, and that’s the reason we’re here.”  

Shuey said being a part of Flight 45 and the mentor program has strengthened her as a leader and a person, as well as allowed her to see she is capable of more things than she ever thought possible.

While Barjaktarovich’s focus has been on helping the freshmen, she, too, said she has also been able to learn a lot about herself along the way.

“I learned how much I have a passion for mentoring and working with other people, which is leading me to ultimately want to go into a career in strength and conditioning coaching,” Barjaktarovich said.

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