Merchant Marine senior Lauren Callahan (Mineola, NY) currently has the most popular friend in Kings Point, a black lab named Marilyn. Callahan, who is also a member of the Academy swimming and diving as well as lacrosse teams, is raising and training Marilyn as part of a program with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. Participation in programs like this is what separates exceptional student-athletes, which are recognized during Division III week. The purpose of the week-long celebration is to call due attention to the activities and accomplishments of student-athletes throughout Division III athletics. The initiative has been guided by a strategic-positioning platform describing Division III as a place where student-athletes can "follow your passions and develop your potential".
If Marilyn is unable to pass the rigorous tests to serve the blind she will still be a useful companion for disabled veterans or can enter other service programs. Callahan described her time with Marilyn as well as competing on the swim team as the highlights of her time at the Academy. "The most rewarding part has been seeing Marilyn learn and how well she does in puppy classes. It amazes me for a dog that is only 14 months old how quiet and well behaved she is all day long while I am in class, and that she knows when its play time."
Callahan also described the tremendous impact Division III athletics has had on her time at the Academy. "Athletics at USMMA is what has kept me grounded during these 4 years. It has always been worth it. The athletic community is the best break you have from the regimented life here at USMMA. It is a few hours a day that you are able to get away from squaring, saluting, and having to be serious."
Through all of her commitments and taking care of a pet inside the barracks Callahan has more on her plate than an average student-athlete. But through all of the challenges she has also had numerous positive experiences that make her truly fortunate. The Academy now has two members that will soon go out into the world and undoubtedly do a tremendous amount of good.
"I have learned that I am not a quitter. No matter how much I may want to when the time comes I refuse to give up, I will finish what I started no matter what," said Callahan.
Division III is the largest division within the NCAA and includes 446 member institutions and 43 voting conferences, which comprises 40 percent of the NCAA's total membership. NCAA Division III week will be celebrated across the country, fans can follow @NCAADIII and use #D3Week for more information