The Franklin & Marshall scholar-athlete profile features one Diplomat per month who personifies what it means to be an NCAA student-athlete. The F&M campus is filled with dedicated, passionate, and talented student-athletes who have interesting stories to tell – and it's our goal to let those stories be heard. To be chosen as a scholar-athlete of the month, F&M student-athletes must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and community service, or have a noteworthy story that stretches beyond the realm of athletic competition.
Finding that perfect academic and athletic balance is no simple task for a Division III student-athlete. For those who find a way to carve out portions of their schedule to meet the mounting responsibilities of that title, this balance comes to define them.
Ellana Benabou is one of those extraordinary student-athletes. The senior volleyball player has not only grown to embody the three D's that are said to make up the organization's moniker: discover, develop and dedicate; she has also found a way to incorporate them into her busy life.
"At first I was only able to create a balance because I had no choice with the hours I dedicated to volleyball," said Benabou. "At this point, I understand that while I am in season, down time during the day is crucial homework time. It definitely helps to have a supportive coaching staff and an athletic culture at F&M that values academics, so my teammates and friends spend as much time studying as I do."
Although the academic workload is a challenge for every student at F&M, few have had as much on their plate as Benabou. During her four years at the college, she has been involved as a campus tour guide, a SAAC/ALC team representative, a student worker in the Office of College Programs and a Tommy Foundation Volunteer, an organization that educates and serves the community in dealing with autism through awareness, development, research and training.
"My extracurriculars have been a huge part of my college experience, making me a more well-rounded leader and enabling me to create a better sense of connection with both the F&M and Lancaster communities," said Benabou.
While various organizations have benefited from her effort and dedication, Benabou's academics haven't suffered. The anthropology major has made her way on the dean's list three times, while also being a member of the Delphic Society and a Coluccio Salutati Award nominee.
The award, which Benabou was nominated for while studying abroad in Florence, Italy last spring, is intended to recognize students who have aspired to the highest levels of integration into the Italian culture, demonstrated academic excellence through in-class performance, gained recognition for the quality of written and/or graphic assignments, and achieved outstanding results on examinations.
The classroom isn't the only place Benabou has gained valuable experience while at F&M. The middle hitter from Medway, Mass., discovered what it takes to be a champion, being part of the 2010 volleyball team that captured a Centennial Conference (CC) Title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. What she has gained from her experiences on the court will carry on with her long after leaving Lancaster.
"I have learned the importance of putting the needs of my team before my own, how to problem solve through tricky situations and how to be a better leader," said Benabou. "Above all else, I have built incredible friendships."
For some student-athletes the greatest contribution they offer their team is measured in gaudy statistics on the court. Others take on the role of a leader, a position that is equally if not more important, and one that Benabou has come to accept with open arms.
"Ellana is one of the most responsible and dedicated players I have ever coached," said head coach Mary Kate Boland. "She has a great perspective on what it means to make an impact on a team from the bench. Her positive attitude and mentorship of some of our younger players has meant a lot to our success. "
When asked why she chose F&M, Benaubou points to the culture of the college and how it facilitates success.
"When I visited F&M I felt a sense of inclusion that I had not felt at any other school I applied to," said Benabou. The students and staff were all excited and welcoming, the opportunities endless and I couldn't imagine being a part of any other campus community."