After David Sobczak ’23 enrolled at Syracuse University, he gravitated toward social work and helping others because of the time he had spent in hospitals as a child with cerebral palsy.
“He was in and out of the hospital for extended periods of time, and what he saw were a lot of kids who were in the hospital and literally no one ever came to see them,” says Dee Anna Sobczak, David’s mother. “With his family and friends, David was never alone, and we would embrace kids that were there and bring them into our circle. He realized then and there that he’s very lucky to have a support group and not everybody has that.”
Sobczak wanted to be a football coach, and he earned his undergraduate degree from the School of Social Work in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics because a football team, like society, is made up of people from all walks of life. He wanted to learn how to best communicate with the players, show empathy for their individual situations, and build trust–the building blocks of social work.
Sobczak spent four seasons as offensive student assistant coach for the Syracuse football team, and he recently completed his first season as an offensive assistant coach for the University of Akron. Meanwhile, Sobczak’s younger brother, Danny, played football in high school and he and David told their mother that in both high school and college, many of the student-athletes struggled to pay for day-to-day items.
“What we found is that a lot of the students who were part of the team were on scholarship, but they weren’t funded for school supplies, their computer–all the things that would have set them up to be just as successful as their peers,’’ Dee Anna Sobczak says. “Many of the kids didn’t even have the money to buy lunch.”
As a result of those conversations, Dee Anna, David, and Danny, who graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder last spring, decided to create a fund to help Falk College students who are experiencing financial hardship. Working with Director of Development Megan Myers, who will become Falk’s assistant dean of advancement March 1, they created the Sobczak Family Student Support Endowed Fund that provides mini grants for an academic year.
“A lot of times, these students are trying to fight their way out of whatever situation they came from and start a new life for themselves,” Dee Anna Sobczak says. “This (fund) is to help set them up to be as successful as their peers, and that way everybody is on the same playing field as much as they can be.”
The mini grants are available to meet a wide range of needs and provide access to opportunities. Categories of support include emergency basic needs, fees, and supplies associated with the student’s educational program, and other critical student and human needs. Mini grants range from $100 to $300.
The Sobczak Family Fund is open to graduate and undergraduate students from the following Falk College programs: Exercise Science, Human Development and Family Science, Marriage and Family Therapy, Nutrition and Food Studies, Public Health, and Social Work. In the types of needs it addresses, the fund mirrors the Brandon S. Steiner Sport Management Student Support Fund for students enrolled in Falk’s Department of Sport Management.
Students may apply for assistance from the Sobczak Family Student Support Fund by filling out this application form and including documentation/information about circumstance. A student can’t be awarded funding more than twice.
David Sobczak’s disability is physical, and his challenges are there for all to see. But what his Social Work education taught him and his family is that we don’t know everything that might be going on in a person’s life, and the family fund is for students whose challenges may not be so obvious.
“There are really special people in Social Work,” David Sobczak said in a fall 2022 interview. “When it comes to my career and where it helps me, I’m going to encounter–and I’ve already encountered–people with tough situations in their family lives and you’ve got to be there for them.
“So, you learn about empathy, how to deal with people, and how to communicate, and you also learn that we’re all people,” he added. “You treat people as people and that’s a life skill that will take you further than any education can ever take you.”
In that interview for a feature story that appeared before Syracuse’s bowl game in 2022, David talked about wanting to give back and serve as a role model for those with disabilities who have dreams of their own. The family fund for Falk Students, Dee Anna Sobczak says, is to help students overcome outside challenges to complete their education and realize their dreams.
“We want them to be the best version of themselves they can be, figure out who they want to be and what they want to do, and put a path together to get there,” Dee Anna says. “And also, to realize that nothing is impossible; if you can dream it, you can do it.”
In addition to the Sobczak Family Student Support Endowed Fund, there are other opportunities and awards available to students in Falk College. Please visit the Awards and Scholarships page on the Falk website for more information on how to apply.
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