Supporting and Advocating for Student Athletes: ASF Bear Boosters Make their Mark

Educating the whole child is an effort and endeavor that truly takes a whole village. At ASF this is no different. To this mission, three community groups have been formed: The Alumni Association, the Parent Association and the Bear Boosters. While the Alumni Association works to organizing meaningful events throughout the year with the sole purpose of creating strong and lasting ties amongst ASF alumni, and the Parent Association works to build community to support faculty and staff and to enable parents to be more involved in their children's lives at school, the Bear Boosters focus seeks to support and advocate for student-athletes and teams, while promoting school spirit and strengthening community.

Certainly, all three community groups collaborate, combine, and commune with each other to facilitate a shared goal. Nevertheless, each group holds a mandate of focus and work – the ASF Bear Boosters’ mantle is for student-athletes.

Lynnette Rivera and Sven Wallsten during the 2018-19 Homecoming event

The governing board is a dedicated, creative force behind the success of the Bear Boosters. Lynnette Rivera (’89) Wall of Fame Inductee, and mother, serves as the president. She has been involved with Bear Boosters for the last seven years. Vice president and ASF mother Iraida Baldwin is a co-visionary alongside Rivera and has been a part of the Boosters for the past four years. Tatiana Galewicz (’90) is the sitting secretary, a mother of three current athletes, and a member for the past two years. Rounding out the board is Angelina Millán the treasurer and a member for the last four years.

This lasting incarnation of the Bear Boosters is relatively new. Established formally in 2011 with the support and vision of former Executive Director, Paul Williams and alumni Horacio McCoy (’57), Ricardo Ganem (‘83), and now president Lynnette Rivera (’89), elections were organized and the first sitting president was Benjamín Gómez.

We started from zero. Nothing was going on. There was no interaction between parents and athletics.” - Lynnette Rivera (’89)

Previous iterations flourished in the late 70’s and into the 80’s, Rivera shared an early memory when she was in high school, “I remember the Bear Boosters were selling beer at the Art Fair in the 80’s. They were selling a lot of beer.” While beer may not be a fundraising staple in today’s Bear Booster catalogue, they do have a store of spirit wear that drum up funds to support teams and to proliferate Bear pride. With “Mama” and “Papa” Bear swag in shirts, hoodies, and hats, many a proud parent is set to celebrate their student-athlete. Other swag is equally for sale to students, alumni, and grandparents.

According to Rivera, the Bear Boosters can now boast that every junior varsity and varsity team has an assigned Team Parent. Sometimes two or three, this dedicated Team Parent’s focus is the team’s needs and the individual athlete’s needs. Galewicz explains how this model works, “This has helped us with fundraising. Each team is asked to hold one fundraiser and the Team Parent organizes that.” These funds raised are to support with travel, uniform, and equipment costs for that particular team. Collective funds are used to help student-athletes through financial aid to meet financial requirements so they can successfully participate in a given sport.  Another role the Team Parent takes on is one of advocacy. Rivera explains, that the parent often understands the issues an athlete is facing and they will help that athlete with advice or guide them to solutions within the school support system. “They just seem more connected with the team and the coach to step in and help.” she shared.

Benjamín Gómez, Ralph Mickle, Sven Wallsten, León Merikanskas and Coach Horacio Contreras

Moving beyond the team’s needs, the Bear Boosters, which is a close extension of the Institutional Advancement office, seeks to promote school spirit. Baldwin explains, “We sell the spirit wear, but we also do more . . . we organize the pep rallies and helped to develop the Homecoming activities.” According to Baldwin, “Before 2013, the game was barely attended, now it is a big thing.” Both Rivera and Galewicz attended when the Bear Boosters during their enrollment faded. “School spirit has definitely grown since I was in school. I lacked that. I played outside of school and had little spirit in the school.” Rivera continued, “You heard about the 70’s and how much spirit they had – we didn’t.” She attributes this to the lack of female sports and support at the time, “If you look at the Wall of Fame, you see many more boys than girls during that time.”

Times have changed and spirit is on the rise along with the development and proliferation of equality and equity in sports. Currently the following sports are offered:  

  • Basketball (grades 1-12 for boys and girls)
  • Volleyball (grades 6-12 for girls only)
  • American Football (grades 1-5 co-ed and grades 6-12 for boys only)
  • Soccer (grades K-12 for boys and girls)
  • Tennis (grades K-12 for boys and girls)
  • Swimming (grades K-12 for boys and girls)
  • Running (grades 3-12 for boys and girls)

The office of the Bear Boosters is a small room on the third floor in the Upper School. While the room is small the Booster’s footprint is deep and easily seen in the Wellness Center. “We donated the trophy cases and provided the frames for the pictures in the WEC.” Rivera informed. The Bear Boosters also funded the football/athletic tunnel and the bear paw stickers that propagate during Homecoming. However, the impression of the Boosters can be seen in the organization of the Pep Rallies, the expansion of Homecoming, and the attendance at games. “In 2011 we reworked Homecoming. Today it is a big event.” Galewicz shared. Rivera attributes their success to the open communications maintained with division administration, with the student-athletes, and the parents. This communication has led to keen collaboration and support from all stakeholders.

One of the culminating signature events for the Bear Boosters is the Athletic Excellence and Sportsmanship Award Gala. This year’s Gala is May 23 in the FAC. All junior varsity and varsity athletes are recognized for their effort, dedication, and accomplishments. “It is a time when all of the athletes are recognized. Teams are invited to the stage and individual athletes are recognized for earned honors. This is a great event that encourages all to maintain ASF Bear pride.” Rivera shared. Honors are awarded for Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, and Athlete of the Year along with others. The Athlete of the Year becomes a Wall of Fame Inductee. Upon their graduation, they are officially inducted to the Wall. Another honor awarded is the Bear Booster of the Year which is selected by the Bear Booster Board. Bill Cox, Upper School Humanities Teacher, received the award in 2018. “Bill showed a lot of support for our athletes. He is in the gym with them, goes to nearly every event, and supporting them in the stands. It was an easy decision to make.” Rivera shared.

Tatiana Galewicz, Lynnette Rivera and Angelina Millán

Rivera, Baldwin, Galewicz, and Millán are the first to say they do not do this alone. They are quick to point to the parent volunteers, the willingness of the administrations, and the enthusiasm of the students. “It is teamwork. We need the coaches. We need the parents. We need the kids dedication. If all of us work together, I think the Boosters will continue to be a link between administration, the parents, between the schools.” Rivera reflected. Nevertheless, the inspired leadership of the Bear Booster Board continues to move the Boosters forward and a significant presence on campus.

The Bear Boosters provide indispensable . . . support for students in need. They organize team funding opportunities and the end of the year gala. In a multitude of ways, the Bear Boosters support Athletics on the ASF campus.” - Robert Wilson, Head of Athletics and Extended Learning

As all Community Groups are continually looking for volunteers, the Bear Boosters are no different. If you are a parent, a teacher, an alumnus, a student the Boosters encourage and welcome your ideas, donations, and time because as Rivera is often know to say, “Once a Bear, always a Bear – Go Bears!”

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