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Karl Lindholm: The importance of community – and hoop!

It’s gratifying when a Vermont kid does especially well at the local college.
One student from Vermont in this year’s senior class at Middlebury College has had a significant impact on student life — as well as the larger community.
First and foremost, this Vermonter is an ambitious and accomplished student, an Economics major with minor in Education Studies — with a GPA approaching 3.5.
He’s writing a senior thesis on “Green Dot Bystander Intervention: A Reduction of Sexual Violence Rates.” He’s using economic means to evaluate the effectiveness of the Green Dot program on the Middlebury campus.
Green Dot is a nationwide sexual assault prevention program adopted by Middlebury and over 200 schools and businesses. Our Vermont student is one of the leaders of the program at Middlebury. He spoke about sexual assault issues to the entire first-year class at their orientation this fall.
Noreen Pecsok, co-director of the Green Dot Program at the college said: “He is a smart, thoughtful guy who has embraced the challenge of making our campus a safer place. His impact has been tremendous and we are so grateful to have him on our team.”
He is also a leader in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Program as the “Team Recruitment Chair” at Middlebury. He explains, “It’s really important to me. I’ve been doing Relay since high school up in Franklin County. It makes me feel part of a family.”
Right now, as a part of his Education Studies coursework, he is enjoying his “field studies” placement in the Cornwall elementary school in Mrs. Beck’s third-grade class. “I love working with kids,” he says. “I love their energy.”
Another commitment he takes seriously is to the SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Committee). Athletic Director Erin Quinn said of his effort: “He ‘walks the talk.’ He is among the best all-around student-athletes I have encountered at Middlebury when combining contributions on and off the court.”
So that brings us to another important commitment: he’s an athlete, and a pretty good one too.
This Vermonter’s name is Matt St. Amour, and he’s one of the best basketball players ever to come through the place.
Last year, Matt was first team all-NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference, Middlebury’s league) and second team All-Northeast Region (D3 Hoops). Despite missing six games his first year, due to an ACL tear, he has scored over 1,000 points in the three years before this one.
His 566 points last year was the second highest total in school history (19.5 per game). While he is a terrific shooter, who can score from distant precincts on the court, he plays a very complete game. He is among the league leaders in assists and steals — and averages over five rebounds a game.
Matt is a co-captain of this year’s team, off to a fast 5-1 start, after winning the NESCAC Championship last year and earning a victory in the post-season NCAA tournament. The other co-captains are his best friends and backcourt teammates Jake Brown and Jack Daly.
“We’re very close,” Matt says. “We have the same goals, the same drive. I think it shows up in our play. We feed off each other. We lead the league in assists.” Coach Jeff Brown adds, “I wouldn’t trade them for any trio in the league.”
It was big news in the spring of 2013 when Matt chose to come to Middlebury after compiling a high school basketball career to compare with any in the history of the sport in Vermont: In high school he scored over 2,000 points (over 30 points a game!) and reaped a host of honors.
His high school years in Swanton were both conventional and unconventional: He stayed home. For Vermont athletes of extraordinary ability, the convention now is to go away to a prep school where they will find greater competition and exposure.
Matt acknowledges he and his family talked about alternatives, but says, “I didn’t want to go to prep school. I was strongly against it. I never wanted to leave the kids I grew up with. I felt a sense of pride for my town and community.”
You can see that community at Middlebury games, as just about the whole town of Swanton shows up. The St. Amour contingent — family, teachers, coaches, friends, occupies the northwest corner of the gym. “My dad hasn’t missed any games, home or away,” Matt reports. “My mom has missed just two. Everybody gets together. It’s great to see them there.”
His college decision came down to Middlebury or UVM as a “walk-on.” “We had season tickets to UVM games — we went to every home game.” About the decision, he says now, “definitely no regrets.
“I felt a little overwhelmed at first — I may be the only student from Missisquoi to ever attend Middlebury, but Middlebury has inspired and challenged me, made me interested in learning, not just getting good grades.”
His plan after graduation? He says he would like to get an internship in management consulting next summer, using his economics degree and “working with people on a team, not just crunching numbers.”
Then he’d like to try his hand playing basketball overseas, like recent Middlebury players Ryan Sherry (Luxembourg), Peter Lynch (Ireland), and Joey Kizel (Israel).
“You can see his passion,” Coach Brown says of Matt. “He’s a terrific player. His leadership has meant a lot to the program, on and off the court.
“He’s given a lot back to the college.”    PANTHER MATT ST. AMOUR, shown in a game last February, is a Vermont native who is making a big impact not only on the men’s basketball team, but at Middlebury College as a whole.
Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

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