Shane Warner, a captain of the men's lacrosse team, spent part of last summer in Uganda training lacrosse players and helping to build a school.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2013 profile: Shane WarnerTweet
Shane Warner knew he wanted to embark on a special volunteer mission before beginning his senior year at Binghamton University.
“I didn’t want to do the norm – stay home with friends,” he says. “I wanted to travel.”
When the 22-year-old from Tomkins Cove, N.Y., heard about Fields of Growth, an international group that uses lacrosse to help promote positive social impact, he knew that he had discovered his summer work. Fields of Growth would travel to Uganda in the summer of 2012 – and the captain of the Binghamton University men’s lacrosse team was determined to take part.
“The way I looked at it was: ‘I may never be able to do this again,’” Warner says. “So I committed to it. Some people second-guessed it, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to go there anytime soon. … It was a perfect match. I was able to travel and keep a lacrosse stick in my hands.”
Warner and about a dozen other college and high school students and adults conducted lacrosse clinics in the capital city of Kampala, visited an orphanage and a juvenile center, and even helped build a school (The Hopeful School) in rural Masaka, Uganda.
“Kids walk 5 kilometers to this school, sometimes without shoes on their feet,” he says. “It is amazing.”
Traveling to the homes of Hopeful School students and handing out necessities such as soap, bread, rice and cooking oil was an eye-opening experience for Warner and his fellow U.S. visitors.
“When you go into the country, it’s worse than what you see on TV or in magazines,” he says. “Some of the homes we saw were mud huts with dirt floors. Maybe there was a mattress on the ground.
“We have no right to complain about ‘the little things’ here,” he adds. “The U.S. has problems, but when you look at the big picture, what’s out there is scary. I got a chance to see it in Uganda − and I’m lucky.”
The Fields of Growth members also helped to train Uganda’s national lacrosse team – the only men’s lacrosse national team in Africa. Warner was impressed by the players and their desire to absorb the coaching and advice.
“I wasn’t expecting too much lacrosse skill,” he says. “But these guys were great athletes and great teammates. They will do anything to make their team better. They listened to everything we had to say.”
Even after the 17-day trip ended and Warner returned to Binghamton University, he still had the urge to help Uganda. So he asked his lacrosse teammates to help raise money for The Hopeful School.
“It was impossible to just leave the trip in the past,” he says. “It has to remain with you.”
Warner and his teammates raised $600, which was used to raise teacher salaries at The Hopeful School before it went on holiday break in the winter.
During the school year, the double major in history and comparative literature took part in the Student-Athlete Success Center’s College for Every Student Program. Warner was among a group of student-athletes who traveled to West Middle School in Binghamton to mentor and work with pupils.
“We try to give them something to work toward,” Warner says. “We may say: ‘Get an 80 on the next test instead of a 75.’ If hearing it from us makes them want to get that 80, we’re doing our job.”
Warner, who has played lacrosse since he was a second-grader in a league of sixth-graders, says he takes pride in being an exemplary student-athlete.
“I had goals coming in as a freshman, but I never thought I’d be able to maintain a 3.8 over four years, especially as a double major,” says Warner, who is a midfielder on the lacrosse team. “I do my best to influence other students. Teammates come to me for help and advice. I take pride in maintaining high academic standards while being a team captain.”
Men’s lacrosse coach Scott Nelson notes that Warner was not only a team captain, but also the team’s most valuable player in 2013.
“Shane epitomizes the true student-athlete. He is as dedicated to his studies as he is to being an excellent lacrosse player,” Nelson says. “Shane does everything to the best of his ability and with a great attitude. He always seems to enjoy himself, always has a smile on his face. Shane plays a position that gets little glory, however, it is as important as any on the field.”
Warner’s contributions on and off the field are now receiving national attention, as well. He was recently named a finalist for the Yeardley Reynolds Love (“YRL”) Unsung Hero Award. The award honors a male and female lacrosse player who are “hard-working, humble, honest, kind, and enthusiastic; this individual serves as an inspiration to her/his team both on the field and off’.” The award is given in honor of former University of Virginia student-athlete Yeardley Love, who was killed in 2010. The four other male finalists come from the University of North Carolina, Ohio State University, Loyola University and Cornell University.
Warner plans to get a master’s degree in education and eventually teach high school social studies while coaching lacrosse and football.
Coming to Binghamton University to play Division 1 lacrosse and study the liberal arts was “the best decision I’ve ever made,” Warner says.
“The people I’ve met, the professors I’ve worked with, the classes I’ve taken – they have all made me a better leader. But they’ve also made me set goals, attack those goals and achieve the goals to the best of my abilities.”