Every year, NCAA Division III institutions across the country participate in Division III Week. To celebrate this week, we will bring you a new profile every day that gives a glimpse into the life of Chapman's student-athletes.
Sophomore Wilson Parnell continues our D3 Week features all the way from Florence, Italy, where is is studying abroad this semester. The water polo student-athlete had his lower left leg amputated as a toddler and has overcome the odds to continue his playing career in college.
Tell me what you have been involved in on campus during your time at Chapman and where you are studying this semester?
I have been studying this semester abroad in Florence, Italy. It has been an amazing cultural experience and I have been getting to know the lifestyle of Europeans and, especially, Italians. At Chapman, I play water polo and have been involved in SAAC committee. I am also a part of the LEAD minor program, which for me, has been one of the best decisions as I have learned about myself, my leadership qualities and how to use those qualities to better my community.
Why did you chose Chapman and to be a Division III student-athlete?
I chose Chapman because I wanted to be at a school where I would have the opportunity to get to know my professors and administrators. I have met a lot of professors that I now consider mentors, and that would never have happened had I gone to a large university. I love sports and in particular playing water polo, but I also wanted to involve myself in other areas. I had planned to study abroad and become an active member in my community, and playing at the Division III level was the best way for me to include all of those aspects in my college career.
How have you been able to find a balance between academics and athletics?
For me, being an athlete as well as a student has forced me to become more disciplined in academia. As an athlete, your time is very limited, especially if you involve yourself in other areas of campus. This requires the person be disciplined and get all the schoolwork necessary finished before practice. I believe that involving myself in athletics has made me a better student and has given me organizational tools I will be able to use even after college.
Tell us about your non-profit, what it means to you and where you are in the process of setting it up?
Currently, my non-profit is in the "dream" stages. My dream is to create a non-profit that helps those with prosthetics receive the highest quality care so that they may be involved in sports. I am an amputee and have been fortunate in my life to have the type of care that allows me to compete and be involved in as many athletic activities as I want. Some do not have these opportunities and some do not have the types of prosthetics needed to compete. The non-profit will eventually aim to aid people with receiving this care and also provide them with opportunities to involve themselves in sports.
In order to have your own 501(c) (3), you must file with the IRS and get a lot of paperwork approved. I am slowly working on the paperwork. My hope is to finish everything during the summer and send it off. While I do not have my own non-profit yet, I am planning fundraising activities that will be dedicated to same efforts that my non-profit would. For instance, in Italy, I plan to run in 12K race to raise hope for those with prosthetics. My goal is to complete the race, inspire others, and hopefully gain funds that I will be donated to Shriners Hospital. Shriners Hospital provided me with aid as a child and I would not be able to compete in athletics today without their support and aid. In addition, I've launched a fundraiser called OneLegOneLove for child amputees.
What has been the biggest benefit of being a Division III student-athlete? What are the opportunities you have been able to take advantage of at Chapman?
The biggest benefit for me has been to involve myself in other areas of school and not be totally consumed by my sport. I love water polo, but I also love to learn, to explore new cultures and to involve myself in other extracurricular activities. I have had a very well-rounded experience at Chapman and that has been due to me being a Division III student-athlete.
How has competing in a sport at Chapman helped you achieve your long term goals or set you on your desired career path?
Competing in water polo has solidified my love the game and for the sports in general. I know that wherever I end up in the future, I want athletics to be a part of it. It is one of the main reasons I want to orient my non-profit towards amputees in sports. Playing water polo in college has given me more confidence, while improving my discipline, organization and passion. I am a better person for having played sports in college and will always be grateful of this opportunity.