TU tennis team helps elementary school go international

By Kyle Hobstetter on February 27, 2017

International student-athletes share their culture, sport with Stoneleigh Elementary

Towson University tennis team members (from left to right) Yevgeniuya Shusterman (Ukraine); Renate Van Oorschodt (Netherlands); Barbora Vasilkova (Slovakia) Sophie Lesage (France) and Nicole Shakhnazarova (England) pose behind concession stand at the Stoneleigh Elementary International Festival. The international student-athletes came to talk to students during the festival on Saturday, February 25.
Towson University tennis team members (from left to right) Yevgeniuya Shusterman (Ukraine); Renate Van Oorschodt (Netherlands); Barbora Vasilkova (Slovakia) Sophie Lesage (France) and Nicole Shakhnazarova (England) pose behind concession stand at the Stoneleigh Elementary International Festival. The international student-athletes came to talk to students during the festival on Saturday, February 25.

For years, Towson University has worked tirelessly to become a beacon of culture and diversity in the Greater Baltimore area. So when one of its neighbors tried to do the same, TU was more than happy to lend a helping hand. 

Stoneleigh Elementary, located just over a mile from the Towson University's campus, hosted an International Festival on Saturday, February 25. To help the school celebrate, five international student-athletes from Towson University's tennis team came to participate in the festival. 

The festival featured exhibits put together by members of the community, each representing a different country/culture. This included crafts, food, performances, arts and sports from various parts of the world.

Adam Rothwell, who serves as chair of the Stoneleigh Elementary International Festival, wanted to have an athletic presence at the event. After some research of the local universities, he saw that the Tiger tennis team had the highest proportion of international student-athletes. 

“We’re thrilled these women are not only able to share information on their countries, but also what it means to be an international athlete at Towson University,” said Rothwell. “I think it’s great for kids to see women athletes that are world-class athletes. Especially when they are right in our backyard.”

Towson University hosts over 700 international students from over 80 countries. This includes six of the nine-member Tiger tennis team, who took time out of their Saturday to spend time with the students.

“As student-athletes we are always looking to give back to the community,” said Nicole Shakhnazarova, who is a junior from London, majoring in journalism. “I wish when I was an elementary school student I had something like this. I didn’t have that opportunity, so giving that to children now means a lot.”

Check out the Towson University tennis team's complete schedule 

The team spent the day talking with students and their parents about playing a college sport and growing up in their respective countries. They also stepped in at the concession stand to help serve snacks to others.

Towson University Tennis
Renate Van Oorschodt, member of the Towson University tennis team, stands next to the Netherlands exhibit at the Stoneleigh Elementary International Fair. Van Oorschodt grew up in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. 

And while they were there, it was common to see one student-athlete sneaking away from the group to enjoy the fair themselves. This included finding the table that represented their country and checking out to see how accurate they were. The team was more than happy with what the athletes saw.

“We took a leap of faith coming here [to the US],” Shakhnazarova said. “But being here at Towson University has been great. It makes it little easier that all of us are international students and we’re all in the same boat.” 

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Campus