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Goshen senior reps NYSPHSAA Section IX, advocates for mental health in sports

Goshen High School Senior Allison O’Donnell is a dedicated scholar in the National Honor Society and the Architecture and Engineering CTECH Program. She is also an ambitious athlete–participating in Girls Cross Country, Volleyball, Indoor Track/Field, and Lacrosse–and a proud member of her community, volunteering with youth lacrosse programs. 

It’s her deep involvement at GHS and beyond that gives Allison firsthand insight into the challenges that can arise while balancing a heavy workload as a high school student-athlete. 

But it also gives her plenty of opportunities to grow as a leader.

For these reasons and more, Allison was selected to represent GHS and all of Section IX as a member of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) for the 2023-24 school year.

Two juniors and/or seniors from each of the 11 sections across the State of New York are selected to serve for one- or two-year terms each year. Allison represents Section IX alongside Tri-Valley Central School Senior Craig Costa this year. 

“Allison is very proud to represent Goshen High School and all of Section IX,” said her mother, Leigh Ann O’Donnell. “She also encourages other students to learn as much as they can about the SAAC and to get involved.”

The SAAC’s main goals are to promote safety, sportsmanship, leadership, and positive relationships with coaches, administrators and other student-athletes. The Committee also works to represent the perspective of all NYSPHSAA student-athletes and give them a voice within the organization. 

“It’s important for me to be on the committee to advocate and be a voice for other student athletes at the state level,” said Allison. “I want to help bring awareness to mental health issues that we may face while trying to juggle the responsibilities of being a successful student-athlete.” 

“There’s also everyday obstacles,” she said, “like maintaining good grades, being a supportive teammate and leader, performing well in your sport, working, and family – that could be presented, making it challenging for student-athletes to succeed.”

Goshen Physical Education and Athletics Director George St. Lawrence said he is proud Allison has been selected to represent Goshen. 

“During my 42 year career as an educator, I have had the opportunity to witness the character of many outstanding young adults,” he said. “I place Allison at the top of this list based upon

her positive demeanor, mature attitude, and leadership skills, all of which I have witnessed and admire.

“She has a strong work ethic and the willingness to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of others,” said St. Lawrence. “We are both proud and fortunate as a school and community, to have Allison represent Goshen in her endeavors.”

The accomplished student-athlete attended the first of two annual NYSPHSAA SAAC conferences this past December in Syracuse to learn about a variety of topics in high school sports. 

“It’s been interesting to me to see how the NYSPHSAA SAAC operates at the state level discussing issues related to officiating, rules and regulations, mixed competition, coaching principles and sportsmanship standards,” she said. 

“I’ve also learned how important it is to communicate with peers as well as teachers, coaches and mentors,” she said.

This spring, the Section IX representative will attend the second NYSPHSAA SAAC conference, scheduled for March 27 and 28 in Albany.