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b2ap3_thumbnail_1426734_644433955608244_957885172_n.jpgLast week, my husband and I, both proud 2012 alumni, jumped at the chance to attend a Young Alumni Event with Waynesburg University. For the first time, we experienced the magical atmosphere of Dave and Busters and the camaraderie of being surrounded by other young Waynesburg graduates. 

My experience was slightly unique in that I attended the event as both a representative of Waynesburg (I work as a graduate assistant in University Relations at my alma mater) and as a giddy participant. As I helped to register the more than 70 alumni in attendance, I tried to remember what classes I shared with some of them and how others left a memorable impact on the University even before I began as a freshman in 2009. In that moment, like many other moments before it, I felt so thankful for the small atmosphere of Waynesburg University, which allowed me to remember these names and faces and connect in a memorable way. 

After a delicious meal provided by the University, people departed, in groups of three, four and sometimes many more, for the arcade. 

My husband, roommate, Vikki and I set out for the games that would spill the most tickets. We played skee-ball and failed miserably next to a very accomplished 8-year-old boy, whose tickets quadrupled ours. 

At the end of the evening, we decided to go all out on a racing simulation game – each of us picking a different drivers’ seat and steering wheel. As we sped through checkered flags and rounded impossible turns, I thought about how nice it felt to goof off with my best friends, surrounded by a greater network of alumni who were enjoying themselves equally. 

After we all crossed the virtual finish line, we glanced down to collect our tickets hoping for enough to make a dent in the impressive arcade store gallery. None appeared. We somehow managed to choose the only arcade game that didn't reward its players – but the experience was enough. 

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Many people enjoy watching professional wrestling on television for the entertainment value, but few realize that the men and women who commit their lives to the sport obtain real injuries in the process of entertaining. Larry Heck, a 1992 Waynesburg University graduate, addresses those injuries off camera.

 

For 12 years, he has traveled everywhere from Amsterdam to Afghanistan with the team of entertainers and has bandaged, stretched and rehabilitated hundreds of professional athletes. His work has built friendships with television superstars and has positioned Heck for a prosperous, fulfilling life doing what he loves.

 

“It's true what they say, ‘Find a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life,'” Heck said. “If that is the case I haven't gone to work in 12 years.”

 

When Heck visited his alma mater to speak to an athletic training class in March, he explained to students that his success has come as a result of hard work, humility and an attitude of continuous learning.

 

“I was in the very first class of athletic training at Waynesburg,” Heck said. “We were expected to come in and get our hands dirty from the very beginning.”

 

After graduating, Heck continued to “get his hands dirty” by taking every opportunity to learn from athletic trainers across the nation. He moved to Texas to take his athletic training licensure exam and volunteered at a local health sciences facility during the process so that he could continue networking and gaining experience. Connections from his volunteer work led him to accept a position within minor league baseball, then, minor league hockey.

 

Heck returned to the United States a few years later to coordinate outreach efforts about athletic training and health management for Health South, one of the nation's largest healthcare providers specializing in rehabilitation.

 

Twelve years ago, he received a call from the WWE and accepted a position training some of the world's best known entertainment athletes.

 

Now a veteran athletic trainer, Heck still remembers sitting in classes at Waynesburg University and wondering how he could build a successful career. When speaking to current students, he says that he wouldn't be where he is today without networking and continuously building his skill set.

 

Heck said he graduated with an amount of athletic training knowledge and skills that undergraduates at other Universities may never experience.

 

“One of the benefits of Waynesburg is the fact that it's not a large University; my biggest class was 24 students,” Heck said. “The athletic training program really helped me because I was able to start working immediately. In any field of athletic training, the more clinical knowledge and skills you have, the better it will help you to prepare for the future.”


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With grace and love in her heart, Sarah Markwardt has traveled to Hekima Place, a sanctuary for orphaned girls in Kenya, for one month of every year since 2008. In that time, the girls who call Hekima Place home have grown to cherish their time with the woman who always promises to return.

 

Since graduating from Waynesburg University in May, the Biblical and Ministry Studies (BMS) alumna from Ohio Pyle, Pa., has taken on a new, full-time role within Hekima Place. Dedicating her entire mind, heart and spirit to their mission, Sarah conducts a training program for new volunteers to prepare them for cross-cultural exchange and completes various financial and fundraising tasks in a job created specifically for her.

 

“International service has the potential to be extremely fulfilling to all who participate,” Sarah said. “My goal is to prepare new volunteers to work and travel with open minds, ears and hearts while keeping them informed about politics and other cultural realities in Kenya.”

 

The mission of Hekima Place, to serve the needs of Kenyan girls who are orphaned, primarily by HIV/AIDS, by providing a safe, faith-based, loving home that supports excellence in education and empowerment for their futures, is a mission Sarah has wholeheartedly supported since the moment she met the girls who wanted to love and be loved.

 

Working from her U.S. home to keep her Kenyan home running smoothly, Sarah serves Hekima Place through PULSE, the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience. PULSE, committed to cultivating a community of young servant leaders to transform Pittsburgh, mentors a new generation of urban leaders who understand and appreciate the importance of the city for the world's future. Sarah lives with a cohort of other PULSE participants working to make positive change in Pittsburgh and beyond.

 

“My first trip, I didn't know what to expect,” she said. “Of course, half way across the world, there were plenty of things that were different. But I was struck more by how much was the same. Giggling girls who wanted to be loved, moms working hard, men trying to decide what it means to be a man. Kenyan culture is very different from our own, but people are somehow the same, no matter where they are. So I loved them.”


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Mike Maleski came to Waynesburg more than twenty years ago with dreams of being Bob Costas in the sports announcing booth. Searching for a hands-on education, he left Cleveland, Ohio, and found a new dream as a communication major at Waynesburg University.

 

Now, as vice president of Digital Sales, Marketing and Operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Maleski works with the online revenue stream. Joining the team in 2008, he has made the Cavaliers a top five staple in the National Basketball Association for fan engagement, traffic and revenue. His work has created best practices models that other teams in the NBA have duplicated.

 

Maleski attributes his adaptability and success to his education.

 

“Waynesburg prepared me well for the real world,” Maleski said. “The University gave me the know-how to adjust and adapt. Waynesburg helped me to strive for more, and it gave me the experiences I needed to develop a strong set of personal and professional values.”

 

With a personal goal of being the best at whatever he did, Maleski's career reflects his determination and drive. He began his career with Douthit Communications in 1991 and by 1999 was the general manager of WeST LIFE newspaper. Continuing his professional ascension, Maleski joined the Great Lakes Publishing sales staff in 2002 and became the Inside Business magazine publisher in 2003, where his influence allowed sales growth and numerous awards. During his time with Cleveland.com, the website achieved growth in traffic, as well as site expansion, mobile platforms and new email, among others.


“Most would say I've achieved quite a bit since leaving Waynesburg 21 years ago and perhaps that's true,” Maleski said. “I still see much, much more to do still. I learn something new every day, especially in the field of digital innovation.”

 

In a career featuring a plethora of success, Maleski can identify two of his greatest accomplishments, both dealing with his position with the Cavaliers. For a number of years, he has led the NBA in new media partnership solutions and has been recognized for his work. Additionally, he was named one of the NBA's top new creative executives by Sports Business Journal for the 2009 season, just a year after the organization hired him.

 

Despite his professional achievement, Maleski still believes that attending Waynesburg helped him find what he needed to succeed.

 

“Waynesburg is a big part of who I am today,” Maleski said. “The friends I made there are my friends for life, and it was Waynesburg University that brought us together. My success is attributable to the way I was raised by my parents and the strong relationship I've had with my brothers and friends.”

 

Drawing from his extensive and exciting professional life, Maleski can impart wisdom on students preparing to enter the workforce. He believes in valuing everyone he meets, because one can never be sure when they might reenter your life and have the ability to help you advance in some way. He strives to return every phone call within 24 hours and treat everyone he encounters with courtesy.

 

“Be willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard in order to move up within the corporate environment. Take risks. Be yourself. Stand up for yourself and your opinions…and align yourself with organizations that value the same things you do.”


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In 2009, Esteban Saldi boarded a plane and traveled approximately 6,500 miles to Waynesburg, Pa., with a plan. Saldi, a Waynesburg University sophomore at the time, never imagined that just three years later his plan would actually become a reality.

A 2012 human services alumnus, Saldi recently led a Waynesburg University mission service trip to his native La Paz, Bolivia. This past March, Saldi, joined by Dave Calvario, director of the Center for Service Leadership at Waynesburg University, and six additional Waynesburg students, strengthened his personal partnership with Samaritan's Purse when he returned home to work on a project close to his heart.

For more than 40 years, Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization, has worked to bring assistance in the name of Jesus Christ to those hurting around the world. Inspired by the organization's mission and after his work on a well digging project during the summer of his freshman year, Saldi felt called to rejoin Samaritan's Purse.

With the longing in his heart, Saldi approached Dave Calvario, dean of students and director of the Center for Service Leadership, to discuss the possibility of a university trip. During their spring break this past March, Calvario, Saldi, and six other Waynesburg University students created a University “first” while breathing life into Saldi's 3-year-old dream.

Partnering with Samaritan's Purse for the first time, the mission service team was given the opportunity to directly connect faith, learning and serving while making a difference in a fellow classmate's native country. Saldi's mentor and peers came away from the trip humbled by the experience.

“Most of us take for granted on a daily basis that, when I turn on a faucet in America, clean drinkable water will come out,” Calvario said. “This is not the case in many countries.”

The experience was all that Saldi had hoped for, and at times, he said, seemed dreamlike.

“At moments it seemed unreal that Waynesburg students were having lunch at my house and spending time with my family,” he said.

Saldi, according to Calvario, added to the richness of the trip, Calvario said.

Also a Bonner Scholar, Saldi, spent more than 140 hours each semester serving others while personifying the mission of Waynesburg. Through his Waynesburg University mission service trip experiences and his work with Habitat for Humanity, St. Ann's Soup Kitchen and World Vision, his focus in life developed and changed.

“Service has become more than just volunteer work, it is a lifestyle,” Saldi said. “I serve not only because of the abilities I have, but because of the needs of the people around me.”

Described as a quiet, shy individual as a freshman, Calvario said he knew the University had gained “a diamond in the rough.”

“During his time at Waynesburg and being part of the Bonner Scholar Program, I witnessed a tremendous amount of growth in Esteban. He has truly become a servant leader,” Calvario said.

To describe Saldi and the depth of his kindheartedness, Calvario summarizes Luke 5: 12-13, where Jesus, filled with compassion, reaches out His hand, touches a man with leprosy and immediately the leprosy leaves the man.

“I have witnessed Esteban time and time again filled with compassion, reaching out his hand to help and love others,” Calvario said.

Saldi's willingness to take action and his desire to make a difference would eventually bring about Saldi's involvement in eight mission service trips, both domestic and international, through his eight semesters at Waynesburg University. Placing substantial meaning on the phrase, “saving the best for last,” Saldi's undergraduate career culminated with perhaps one of his most memorable service experiences to date.

Above all, Saldi recognizes the role faith and service has played in his growth. He plans to further expand that growth through his position as a Work Site Liaison for the Pittsburgh Project.

Saldi's personal commitment to making a difference has left a profound impact on Waynesburg University.

“Esteban has truly left his fingerprints at Waynesburg University and around the globe,” Calvario said.


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