Trailblazer Begins Soccer Career

Tyler Vona '16 

Tyler Vona '16 of Highland, N.Y., plans to become a dentist one day, but for now, he can be found drilling on the soccer field as the newest member of the Hudson Valley's semi-professional Kingston Stockade Football Club.

A starting player for MCLA's men's soccer team all four years of his college career, Vona's future in soccer was uncertain earlier this year as he neared graduation. However, a friend who scouted players for the Kingston Stockade Football Club urged him to try out, and he went on to secure a spot on the team after beating out more than 120 players in multiple try-out sessions.

"After finding out I made the roster and witnessing the teams' determination, the crowds coming to support, and children rushing the sidelines for autographs, I knew soccer wasn't over for me," Vona said.  "I am extremely proud and excited to not only continue playing the game I love but to represent my hometown and the Hudson Valley in doing so."  

Most of the players who belong to the Kingston Stockade Football Club are from the Hudson Valley. In fact, Vona grew up playing with – or against – many of them. Although their season began before he graduated, they held his spot on the team until he graduated last month.

While he still plans to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) next month and to apply to dental schools soon after, Vona acknowledges that this new opportunity certainly provides a platform to upper-level soccer.

"If I am ever presented with the option to play professionally, I would more than likely do so.  But for the time being I am just focused on playing to the best of my abilities every time I am on the field," he said.   

At MCLA, Vona played in the center midfield position. In 2014 he was named captain shortly after the season began, and helped lead the Trailblazers to their first MASCAC playoff appearance since 2008. Named captain once again in 2015, he and the team again returned to the playoffs.

After experiencing a concussion a year ago, Vona realized that knowledge regarding that type of injury was somewhat opaque. As a result, when serving an internship in the Office of Student Affairs, he decided to learn more about concussions – specifically geared toward youth soccer – so he might share that information with others.

"Not many people understand the lasting effects that can result from a concussion at an early age," Vona said. "A concussion requires a lot of energy to recover, taking away from the natural development processes occurring in a child's brain. If an injury occurs, depending on its severity, it may hinder a child from fully developing their adult intellect or emotion."

Throughout his time at MCLA, Vona benefitted from attending multiple leadership and research conferences. "Being able to interact with the community outside of MCLA also helped to improve my social skills, and provided me with the opportunity to act as a mentor to local youth."

An alumnus of the biology program, Vona recommends it – and MCLA – to others.

"With small class sizes and enthusiastic professors, it's easy to establish personal connections.  There are numerous opportunities for internships, research projects, jobs, and more offered to those involved in the biology department," he said. "MCLA presented me with many opportunities to succeed academically and socially. The curriculum pushed me to work harder inside and outside of the classroom to achieve my goals."

 
Since he graduated from MCLA in 2013, Max Roman Dilthey has amassed more than five million readers through his cycling, hiking and backpacking website, MaxTheCyclist.com, and with online publications his writing has appeared in, such as The Solar Tribune, The Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Livestrong.com.
 
Because of this work, Dilthey, who double majored in English and environmental studies at MCLA, recently won the 2016 New England Outdoor Writing Association's Award.
 
"I write about things that mean a lot to me, and I think anyone can connect with someone's experience if the story they're telling is meaningful and honest," Dilthey said.
 
"I think it's great that a lot of my work resonates with people. I especially love the community on my site, where I have regular readers who comment and tell me what they think about my articles. That feedback really makes me want to write more and more," he added.
 
Dilthey originally planned to major in art. He switched to English after a positive experience in a writing course. Then, during his sophomore year, he became "hooked" on biology after taking a course to fulfill a science prerequisite, and ended up adding the environmental studies major soon after.
 
"I don't think I'd have picked either of these majors if I wasn't inspired by the courses and professors at MCLA," Dilthey said.
 
Now a graduate student in the Sustainability Science program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he is completing his master's degree and beginning work on his Ph.D., Dilthey's many activities include working with a team of Ph.D. students and faculty to co-author a paper on adaptation and mitigation for climate change resilience in coastal environments.
 
Dilthey also teaches his own class," Sustainable Living: Solutions for the 21st Century," a four-credit course for first-year UMass students.
 
In addition, he's working with the Residential Academic Programs Office to develop new connections for first-year students and programming partners across the University of Massachusetts system as they create a general education course on life at college.
 
"I push the benefits and importance of a diverse, rich, and multifaceted education to my students any chance I get, using my time at MCLA as an example of the power of interdisciplinary learning. I am immensely proud of our school, and I am lucky to have started there. I would not be here without MCLA," he said.
 
In fact, Dilthey finds himself spending a good deal of time telling students about the benefits of his experiences at MCLA, such as how they can find opportunities in clubs and the value of  learning from a diverse selection of classes.
 
Dilthey, whose writing also is featured in Adventure Cycling and Bikepackers magazines, discovered his love for camping, hiking and backpacking during his senior year through the MCLA Outdoors Club. There, he learned everything he needed to know to eventually lead trips himself. The experience, he said, was "transformative."
 
At UMass, Dilthey said he has one of the strongest backgrounds in environmental law among others in his department. "MCLA taught me that the courses outside of your major or focus can sometimes be the most valuable to your career. 
 
He recommends MCLA – and the English and environmental sciences programs, in particular – to prospective students.
 
"Both of these degrees are absolutely as rigorous and comprehensive as degrees from other colleges, and I have never once felt underprepared for my career and graduate school. I know a lot of my peers that graduated with me would say the same thing," Dilthey said. "Our entire group is doing amazing things, and we're all still connected because of the sense of community we had at MCLA."
 

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