Rasheed DeBord spent four years as a triple and long jumper for the Fighting Bees Track and Field team, a skill that requires the athlete to always get back up and jump again.
That's why it's not too surprising to hear Rasheed talk about his educational journey to find the perfect major and his uncanny ability to transform uncomfortable situations into opportunities, simply by jumping in.
On May 12, at the St. Ambrose University 2018 Spring Commencement Ceremony, DeBord will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sport Management. Two weeks ago, he was recognized with two awards for his endless drive, determination, work ethic, and enthusiasm: Sport Management Student of the Year and Wellness and Recreation Employee of the Year.
Yes, he is proud, and he should be. "It took a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point. I see this as a reward; all of my hard work paid off."
DeBord was born and raised in Kewanee, Ill., and when it was time to launch his search for a university, a friend (and yes, an Ambrosian) suggested he visit SAU.
He liked the small, community atmosphere and was awarded both an athletic and academic scholarship. The deal was sealed.
As a first-year student, DeBord planned to major in Exercise Science and maybe follow that with a graduate or doctoral degree in physical therapy.
But after his first year, he struggled academically and didn't feel as if he fit into the program. He told his advisor Assistant Clinical Professor Erica Thomas that he really wanted to figure out what he was good at, and she helped him research other majors. He decided to pursue Human Performance and Fitness instead.
"I did that for a bit, and realized I wasn't feeling a passion for it," he said. So he added a second major in fitness and physical education. Still, he was struggling. "A lot of times, when things were tough, I was not sure college was for me," he said.
With encouragement from his advisor and Assistant Professor Sarah Eikleberry, PhD, he pushed forward. Then, he enrolled in a required kinesiology course and everything finally clicked.
Senior Rasheed DeBord
Before graduation, Rasheed DeBord was recognized with two awards for his endless drive, determination, work ethic, and enthusiasm: Sport Management Student of the Year and Wellness and Recreation Employee of the Year. He says his education was quite a journey.
"I was like, ‘Whoa. I like this class.' I'm a sporty person and I want to be around physical activity," DeBord said. "After the first few classes, I was pretty sure I wanted to switch my major. Once I did so, I started doing better in all of my classes, and I was happier in general. I was enjoying my college experience. I fell in love with Sport Management."
As part of his major, DeBord completed a practicum with the Quad City Raiders, a minor league football team, and some hours with the Quad City Mallards mid-level pro hockey team. In September, he completes an internship with the Quad Cities River Bandits, a Class A baseball team affiliated with the Houston Astros.
DeBord said those experiences, coupled with a leadership work study position in the Wellness and Recreation Center and four years of participation in Track and Field, taught him the skill of balance.
"When I was doing poorly in school, I would go to track practice, and it was an escape from everything. Then I would get back to my dorm room, and the stress would come back. I was in a bad spot.
"Once I figured out how to balance my time, track life, coursework, work study, and social life, and I found a major in which I wanted to be successful, it was a turning point. I started to work harder and did what I said I would do. I set myself up for success," he said.
It is real satisfying to talk about my journey. There were times I couldn't see the light at end of tunnel. But once you find your passion, everything comes together. And as a person, as a leader, I've grown.
Senior Rasheed DeBord
DeBord is thankful for the continuous guidance and support of the Kinesiology Department. "Everyone has been real supportive, including my family. They helped me every step along the way, and I knew I could always talk to them," he said.
"It's real satisfying to talk about my journey. There were times I couldn't see the light at the end of tunnel. But once you find your passion, everything comes together. And as a person, as a leader, I've grown."
That growth is tied to his drive to never give up or walk away. About feeling uncomfortable, but jumping in anyway, whether it was a new major, social situation, networking event, or internship. "Being uncomfortable, no one likes it, but it helps," he said.
Jumping leads to discovery, allows you to meet new people, build new skills, and most importantly, to find your passion.
DeBord is applying for jobs and looking into graduate programs. He wants to work in management and has set firm goals he plans to achieve.
"I will miss St. Ambrose. I've met a lot of good people here, faculty members, lifelong friends. It has been my home for five years, but it's time to leave, to start a new journey," he said.
"I am less nervous about taking this next step than I was when I came to SAU. I am more confident in my abilities and what I can do. I am ready."