For Patrick Rosa, playing the sousaphone and playing hockey have become twin passions.
Rosa excels in the first for the Middle Creek High marching band. As for hockey, his commitment to the sport, his drive to succeed and lead with the Capital City Crew, is providing a path to a college education.
Rosa, a senior at Middle Creek, has been named one of four national recipients of the NHL/Thurgood Marshall College Fund Scholarship. His plans are to attend N.C. Central, majoring in business management, with the goal of one day starting a business of his own.
“He will be the first in our family to graduate from college,” said Vernalette Rosa, Patrick’s mom. “It’s a blessing.”
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It’s not what Vernalette Rosa expected when she convinced her son – and later his younger brother, Aaron – to join the Capital City Crew in its infancy in 2009. The hockey program for kids 8 to 14 is part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative, and is partnered with the Wake County Boys and Girls Clubs, Raleigh Youth Hockey Association and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Patrick Rosa was hesitant to join at first. Hockey? A sousaphone player turned hockey player?
“It is a strange combination,” Vernalette Rosa said.
So why try hockey?
“I think at first the boys liked the fights,” she said.
But once in the Crew program, Patrick Rosa thrived.
“I loved it,” he said. “The people in the program, the staff and players, it was like a big family that took us in. Everyone was supportive, on and off the ice.”
John Scott, director of the Capital City Crew, said his program isn’t a hockey development vehicle designed to help young players advance to travel teams or major junior teams. It’s designed more to teach hockey fundamentals but also life skills, to help young players mature.
“Are they accountable, are they responsible, are they leaders, are they honest?” Scott said, “It’s learning to care about others and work side by side with them. Take something as simple as passing the puck. It teaches you to share, to not be selfish.”
Scott said the kids in the program quickly began to look up to Patrick Rosa. It wasn’t because he was the fastest skater or had the hardest shot, Scott said, but more about his positive, can-do attitude.
“Patrick has really been committed to the program,” said Durell Petway, director of the Wake County Boys and Girls Clubs. “He stuck with it. He became a peer leader. He’s the kind of person if he starts something, he sticks with it. If he signs up, he shows up.”
Scott said the Capital City Crew began with 28 kids, 10 on-ice sessions and eight life-skills sessions in its first year. It is funded in part, he said, by the Hurricanes’ Kids ’N Community Foundation, the NHL and USA Hockey, allowing underprivileged and disadvantaged kids to experience hockey at no cost and be a part of the life-skills workshops.
Scott said there were 60 participants this past season, with a goal of having 120 kids in the program by 2020.
Patrick Rosa, 18, has been a star pupil. He has been a player, captain, junior coach and leadership award recipient. He was selected to attend the Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend in Buffalo, N.Y., making for another life experience – his first plane flight and a chance to see Niagara Falls.
Now Rosa, who also plays tuba in Middle Creek’s concert band, has been selected to receive the scholarship from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, named for the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice.
“It’s the culmination of everything he has accomplished,” Scott said. “But this is another step. This is just the start for him, just the beginning of Patrick’s story.”
The NHL/Thurgood Marshall scholarship was developed under the direction of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Those selected must have a 2.5 grade-point average or higher as a high school senior and receive a four-year merit scholarship that helps cover the cost of tuition, fees, room and board and textbooks.
“I’m really proud of Patrick earning this scholarship,” Vernalette Rosa said. “He’s too young to know the sacrifices Justice Marshall made, but this means a lot to me as an African-American. I love that my son has received this honor.”