September 12, 2012

Not Your Average College Student

By Katie Meier, Director of Athletic Communications

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Being a Division III student-athlete is unique in and of itself. Just over one quarter of students at Susquehanna University are student-athletes, so while there is a significant number of student-athletes on campus, they are still the minority; not every student that enters Susquehanna has the desire, drive or ability to compete on a varsity sports team while at SU.

Junior Nick Testo is among that minority as he is the starting catcher on the Crusaders baseball team. However, anyone who knows Nick knows that baseball is just a minor part of what sets him apart from everyone else.

Testo came to Susquehanna for the two obvious reasons – education and baseball, and he knew that it was possible to do that, and more, at a Division III school.

"At a Division III school I could be highly involved, play a sport, and not just be on the team, but have more of an opportunity to participate in other organizations on campus," he said.

Most would consider playing 40 plus games every spring and balancing a double major in business marketing and public relations as being plenty involved, but not so for Testo.

At any given time he is involved in any number of activities, clubs and groups across campus; he is a double major, member of Phi Mu Delta, was a class president and served as a RA his sophomore year.

"I like having a lot on my plate," he said. "I might do too much but that's kind of me. It's the most rewarding part of being in college."

However, the commitment to remain active in those organizations is nothing like his commitment, regimen and discipline to be a member of what could be argued as one of the most valuable organizations on campus – ROTC.

That's right, Testo is now in his second full year as a member of SU's ROTC in addition to all those other activities on his plate.

His interest in ROTC was sparked midway through his sophomore year after his mother was diagnosed with cancer and Testo pursued ROTC as an option to help pay for school. Sophomores join ROTC at a club level status and upon becoming juniors and the acceptance of their application and passing of the fitness test, become contracted by the ROTC. That is currently where Testo stands within the organization and since he has been contracted, will serve four years as a second lieutenant with the Army upon graduation.

"I wanted the physical challenge," Testo explained, "and I wanted a way to help pay for my education. I absolutely love it. I love the spirit, I love the experiences and I'm so glad I get to do this."

Many would question his sanity for taking on so much, but Testo is nothing if not intelligent. He has gained physical durability, mental toughness and invaluable leadership skills which benefit in every single endeavor he undertakes now and in the future.

"This past summer I went to the LTC (Leadership Training Corps) which is essentially a mini officer boot camp," he explained. "They taught us leadership skills and how to be a better leader. It taught me not to criticize people and that people will follow you just by being a good example."

When Testo explains his reasoning, it all makes sense, until he walks you through his daily routine.

"I get up at 5 a.m. for PT on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays," he said. "As a junior, I now have a leadership position and am in charge of operation orders which requires three hours a day of work. I work out logistics, send emails and things like that."

Members of ROTC also participate in weekly events such as barbeques, special events and Ranger Challenges. To top it all off, Testo squeezes in a day of classes and homework before hopefully crashing for the night around 11 p.m.

But lest anyone forget, Testo is also on the baseball team which means fall practices, off-season weight lifting regimens, daily practices in the spring and extensive travel for games from February through May. And even he has to admit that every once in a while, life does get a bit crazy.

"Last year we (the baseball team) got back from our spring break trip in Myrtle Beach at 5 a.m.," he recounted. "At 6 a.m. I had to be at ROTC practice and then go straight to classes."

Not a schedule for the faint of heart. Or for someone who came back from said spring break trip with a broken nose that required surgery.

Testo has the support of family and friends, however.

"Coach Bowers and my teammates have been incredibly supportive," Testo said. "He never has a problem if I have an ROTC commitment."

So, despite the long days, hard work and physical demands, Testo says "I'd still choose this over any other job I could have."