Student athlete seeks funding to finance her dream

JULIE LANE PHOTO MeMe Lawrence (second from right) hopes to take her volleyball skills to Australia this summer to compete in the 2014 Down Under International Games, but she needs help to finance the trip.

MeMe Lawrence (second from right) hopes to take her volleyball skills to Australia this summer to compete in the 2014 Down Under International Games, but she needs help to finance the trip.

When Aterahme “MeMe” Lawrence, 17, next jumps up to spike a volleyball back over a net, it could be Down Under — on the Gold Coast of Australia.

The Shelter Island senior has been invited to represent New York State in the 2014 Down Under International Games this July.

But she knows there’s no free ride in life and that’s why she and her family and friends are mobilized to raise the $7,000 necessary to pay her expenses that will include a three-day stopover in Hawaii with teammates following the summer games that take place between July 15 and 25. Ms. Lawrence is one of eight children in her family ranging in age from 2 to 18, so the financial demands of a large family will make it difficult to raise the money necessary to pay for the trip, she said.

She’s hoping the community will support her fund raising efforts that include bake sales, dinners and other events and also hoping for contributions. “She certainly deserves it,” Superintendent Michael Hynes said of Ms. Lawrence’s selection to the team. “That’s the kind of experience that changes your life,” he said about the trip. If she’s able to raise the money, she will be among approximately 1,200 athletes from around the country competing in various warm weather sports.

The Down Under International Games was founded in 1989 to “use the common language of sports to bridge the continents,” according to the group’s website. While it started with football, it has evolved through the years to include basketball, volleyball, golf, cross-country, track and field, free style wrestling, swimming and cheer leading for youths between the ages of 14 and 19. Student athletes are selected by recruiting coordinators and coaches who research various programs to recommend deserving athletes. “I’ve just got to go for it,” Ms. Lawrence said during an interview last Thursday.

She’s also a high school basketball player, but will only be playing volleyball in Australia this summer. Basketball was her initial sport — a game she played at home before she ever joined the school team. “I really sucked in the beginning,” Ms. Lawrence assessed her own athletic prowess.

But as she does with both sports and her approach to academics, she realized that if she was going to be a contributing player, it would mean work. She credits her coach, Cindy Belt, and Dr. Hynes with encouraging her. “If you have the drive to study and people checking up to see how you’re doing, it helps,” she said about raising her grades and improving her athleticism.

When she’s not in class, studying or playing a sport, she finds time to work on the school newspaper, “The Inlet” as a member of the staff. In fact, she has the lead story in the paper’s latest edition. She was  involved with the Community Chorus last year and hopes to do so again, and if that is isn’t being busy enough,  she’s cast member for this year’s school play, “Young Frankenstein,” being staged at the beginning of April.

Community service is important to Ms. Lawrence, so she volunteers to usher at various concerts and other Island events. Community service was something she learned about as a Girl Scout years ago, she said.

Looking ahead, she has already been accepted to two colleges — SUNY Fredonia and Marymount Manhattan College. She’ stage struck, and  theater might be her major, but she also loves to write poetry, short stories and is considering journalism as a career choice. “I will be the first one in my family to go to college,” she said.  “She’s going on to do some good things,” Dr. Hynes said.