With Support from Friends, College, and Others, Gay Student Athlete Overcomes Hurdles

A top student athlete at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, was disowned by her parents and completely cut off financially after they discovered she was gay. Entering her sophomore year, Emily Scheck, a cross-country runner, was confronted by her parents after they’d discovered photos of her and her girlfriend on a social media site, according to The Buffalo News.

Scheck’s  parents gave her an ultimatum: to leave Canisius, a Jesuit school, return home, attend local community college classes and enter therapy, or receive no support from her family and be left on her own–financially and otherwise.

Scheck, 19, chose the latter, unyielding in her desire to continue her education and be true to herself. She relied upon her roommates and girlfriend for food and other expenses until she could figure out a plan to support herself. A recipient of a partial athletic scholarship, Scheck was suddenly unsure if she could pay to continue to attend Canisius.

Emily Scheck

The Buffalo News reported:

“Scheck said she appealed to the college for help after her parents’ ultimatum, but college officials were slow to provide any concrete solutions. After three months, a frustrated roommate posted Scheck’s story on a GoFundMe page. Money started pouring in. But when the college alerted the NCAA to the GoFundMe page, Scheck’s student athlete status and partial scholarship were suddenly in jeopardy.”  [Editor’s note: Since this article was originally posted, we learned that Scheck decided to take down the GoFundMe page.]

Apparently, donations like the ones set up to support Scheck are a type of income that violates NCAA rules.  Scheck was given another ultimatum, this time from the NCAA, The Washington Post reported:

“Give back the online donations or keep the money and lose her eligibility for college athletics. She felt she had no choice but to give up her eligibility.”

However, the NCAA soon clarified its position and told Scheck could retain her NCAA eligibility if the donations were monitored by Canisius. She and Grace Hausladen, her roommate who started the GoFundMe campaign, had both been prepared to quit the cross-country team in order to finance Scheck’s education and other expenses like books, rent, food, and insurance.

Canisius, a Catholic and Jesuit college, initially did not respond to Scheck’s request for help, but did so after Hausladen had posted the GoFundMe page that went viral, according to The Buffalo News.  Yet, when the NCAA controversy arose, they worked diligently with the athletic association to find a way for Scheck to use the donations for her education.  After the situation was resolved, they issued a statement in support of her:

“Canisius College received clarification from the NCAA that Emily Scheck can retain her eligibility and continue to receive GoFundMe donations that assist her with living and educational expenses. The NCAA staff worked cooperatively with Canisius College to provide guidance that the fundraiser can continue, with school monitoring. NCAA rules allow a school to assist a student-athlete with a fundraiser after a significant life event occurs.

“Canisius and the NCAA will continue to work together in support of Emily. She is a member of the Canisius family and we will to do whatever we can to assist her.”

Emily Scheck, right, with her girlfriend, Justyna Wilkinson.

Scheck faced  hurdle after hurdle, which The Buffalo News described::

“Scheck said her family didn’t change their behavior toward her until after the GoFundMe page went up. In the meantime, she said, she struggled to make ends meet, working two part-time jobs and going to cross-country practice every day. She relied on her roommates and girlfriend until she received her first paychecks, she said, and continued to field difficult and upsetting messages from her family.

“At one point, she contemplated selling her car to cover her spring tuition or just leaving school altogether and working at Wegmans [a supermarket] full time so she could have health insurance next year.”

Her parents say they support her sexual orientation and that there is more to the story than the student is revealing.  Their actions caused her many challenges:

“Though Scheck owned a car, she said, her parents removed her from their insurance policy. And shortly afterward, her father drove to Buffalo from the Rochester suburb of Webster with Emily’s remaining personal belongings, including her birth certificate, stuffed animals, trophies, childhood photos and clothing. He dumped them in her car and removed the license plates.

“Her roommates and girlfriend were shocked to see all of Scheck’s belongings brought to their dormitory and began sorting through it in the common room, trying to figure out where it could be stored and where Scheck could move her car.

” ‘I never would have guessed in a million years that this was something that was going to happen to me,’ she said. ‘My roommates, they started crying. Me too.’”

Her parents’ rejection isn’t explicitly religiously-based, Scheck told the Canisius College newspaper, The Griffin. While their relationship is strained, the lines of communication between her and her parents have been opened due to the success of the campaign:

“They’re working with a counselor who has worked with LGBT community for 30 years,” she said. “They’ve called me now, very different tone. Not angry, not yelling at me, not saying it’s my fault. They want to take baby steps to having a relationship again.”

“While Scheck is keeping communication lines open, she admitted it’s ‘hard’ to deal with family in this way.

” ‘I’ve got to give them something if they’re going to therapy and working on themselves,’ she said. ‘I hope to someday have a relationship again, whatever that means. I think right now, it’s them working on themselves.

In the midst of all the turmoil, Scheck is also receiving an outpouring of online support. As of Novemrber 19th , her GoFundMe has totaled over $75,000, and LGBTQ community members from her hometown are extending support as well.

The Buffalo News reported: “An Amherst woman donated $20 and invited Scheck to spend Thanksgiving with her. And the chief executive officer of a company with a Rochester office gave $200 and encouraged Scheck, a marketing major, to reach out to him when she’s looking for an internship or a job.”

Another local news outlet, Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle, included voices of support from Scheck’s hometown in insuring she doesn’t feel alone:

“Scheck’s story touched the heart of Webster residents and business owners Brandie Rauber-Wasson and her wife, Christina Rauber-Wasson.

“Brandie Rauber-Wasson grew up in a strict Roman Catholic family and recalls her internal fight with herself in her youth…. She realizes not all families respond [positively like hers did] and is sad for Scheck. She would like Scheck to know that there is a big community in her hometown of Webster who supports her.”

Openly gay Assemblyman Harry Bronson, Rochester, also lent support to Scheck:

“Emily’s story was painful to hear but I know that my emotion is dwarfed by the pain Emily is feeling,” Bronson said.”Because I am all too familiar with these kinds of events, I have fought hard to ensure that services exist for our young people.”

The support that Scheck is receiving is a sign of hope amidst dark times, and in a painful situation that should not exist.Though no one should have to endure what Emily Scheck has gone through, the community support, especially coming from a Catholic institution and people of faith, is exactly what should happen when a person comes out: an outpouring of love and support.

Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, November 21, 2018

2 replies
  1. Casey Lopata
    Casey Lopata says:

    Please let Emily and/or her parents know we would be happy to listen to their stories. We live in Rochester and have experience and resources that might be helpful. You’re welcome to share our contact info. Casey & Mary Ellen Lopata, founders of Fortunate Families, created to help Catholic parents and their LGBT children as they navigate the road toward a repaired and hopefully even better relationship.

    Reply

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