By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/19/20
Conestoga senior captain Alex Aufiero was as disappointed as anyone when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lockdown and shutdown of the 2020 season, a year in which she had hopes of winning a state championship.
But Aufiero did not feel sorry for herself – or the lacrosse community. Instead, she showed what a true leader can do – even when the fields are shut down.
Late Thursday night, Aufiero – a key Director of the Lacrosse Village Initiative – was named the winner of the prestigious US Lacrosse Jackie Pitts Award for Eastern Pennsylvania. The honor is given to a female student-athlete (according to US Lacrosse) “in each chapter who truly honors the game of lacrosse, is invested in the development of the game in her community, is an exceptional player who continually strives to improve her game, and is an exemplary member of her team. She exemplifies the spirit of the game, on and off the field. Academically, she is an outstanding student and a valued role model in her school.”
The Lacrosse Village Initiative is an all-volunteer organization led by Eyekonz Sports, and the Conestoga and Shipley Girls Lacrosse programs as well as other club teams to provide relief for healthcare workers and community members in the Greater Philadelphia Area who are impacted by COVID-19. This project, launched in early April. has delivered thousands of Family Meal Kits to local food pantries, Appreciation Kits composed of snacks, bandanas, and notes to healthcare workers at local hospitals and other healthcare facilities, Hygiene Kits to shelters, masks to local hospitals and cash donations to Philabundance.
Aufiero served as the Conestoga High Program Director of the Lacrosse Village Initiative, providing presentations to major organizations while developing guidelines for new teams to join the Initiative. She was selected as a Fox 29 Hero and was interviewed for a Few Goodness Sake segment on May 21.
Aufiero has signed to play at George Washington University. She had a 4.0 (unweighted) GPA and 4.87 weighted GPA and received AP Scholar with Honors. She was a 3-year starter on the lacrosse team and was also involved in these community service projects: Fighting Back Scholarship Program 5×5, Valentines for Meals on Wheels, and Community Haunted Trail. Aufiero was a 2-19 PASL All-Academic pick and made the Under Armour Al-America Underclass team last summer for Team Philly. She also was a two-year varsity soccer player.
Conestoga coach Amy Orcutt, who nominated Aufiero for the Pitts Award, said the Lacrosse Village Initiative was proposed by Eyekonz CEO Jazmine Smith in March. Eyekonz was established to serve the needs of inner city girls and boys from the ages of 5 to 18 (focus on lacrosse and field hockey) living in the Greater Philadelphia area.
“I asked Alex if she wanted to be involved and and she took the reigns. She did most of the work, contacting hospitals, reaching out to schools and doing all the social media – none of us (adults) were good at that.”
Aufiero recalls her first conversation with Orcutt about the idea of starting the Lacrosse Village Initiative.
“I really didn’t now what to expect, but I was equally eager to do something with my time and help out,” Aufiero said. “I really wanted to help her execute it. I am really happy with what we’ve done.”
Aufiero said the reward for helping the Initiative grow has been overwhelming.
“The best part is when we drop off at shelters, hospitals and food pantries and see the organizers so grateful,” she said. “We get e-mails and and messages and phone calls. The nurses and shelters are so thankful. It’s nice to know the impact we are making.”
Aufiero said her perspective on the pandemic has changed drastically. At first she was shocked to see how much she was losing in her senior year – lacrosse, prom, graduation and other big events – but soon she realizwed how much she has, not what was lost.
“I understand how fortunate I am,” she said, “and how how much opportunity I have to give back great to make an impact. Missing the end of my senior year was at first so devestating. I was missing the best 4 months of (my) life, up until now.
“But I have really appreciated the opportunity to do this. It’s been so much fun working for this cause. I am so grateful I have had this high school experience.”