After Borges graduated from LaSalle Academy in Rhode Island, he decided to continue playing football in a post-graduate year at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut – but he wound up getting hurt in his first game.
He broke the bottom of his ulna, the forearm bones were forced up into his hand, tearing all of the ligaments. The two-inch scar on his right wrist is what’s left to show for his six surgeries. He finished out the year and then decided on Springfield. On the third or fourth day of preseason in 2019, he went down again – this time it was a labrum tear in his hip.
“For the first time in my life, I finally checked out,” he said. “And I was never that guy – I was always the guy that was like, ‘Hey, let’s go team’ you know, try to be the best leader you can be, it doesn’t matter if you’re hurt or not. Me – I just checked out. I did everything that I told myself not to do.”
He remembers being in a “toxic place”– the people he hung out with weren’t right and he wasn’t making the best choices for himself. He found his teammates to be people he could talk to. At first, he didn’t want to be a bother as they were doing their own things and he didn’t necessarily want to keep them in his “drama.”
Borges soon realized that he needed more help.
He did what many people are too nervous to do. He sought help from the Counseling Center. It was time to buy in.
Several years earlier, in a Pembroke, Mass. middle school, Coyle was dealing with an eating disorder. She compared herself to people around her, what they ate and what they looked like. Eventually she began restricting her diet – until her parents started to realize what was going on.
She ended up in a treatment program.
“I’d say the biggest thing it taught me was just to be your own person and realize that everyone looks different,” she said. “Everyone’s gonna do different things, not everyone’s gonna like what you do, but you just really have to make yourself happy and find the areas within yourself that you like and that you can grow in.”
Later, not too far away on the north shore, Cashwell-Doe had transferred to a private school outside of Boston through the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program (METCO).
Around the time of his junior year in high school, the social butterfly was dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I was lost,” he said. “People had a lot of money and I didn’t have any money, so I was just trying to fit in.
“I was trying to accomodate for other people’s approval, I guess, and I wasn’t really worrying about myself which was kind of my downfall.”
His downfall led him down an almost tragic path.
“Around junior year of high school I had tried to hurt myself probably like three times and gladly, it failed,” he said. “I’m happy I didn’t go through with it, I’m happy I’m here today to actually speak about those experiences and help other people. But that was just a bad place that I was in for two to three years.”
“A lot of people have their own demons and a lot of people don’t know how to control it. They don’t know how to ask for that type of help, they don’t know how to handle it really. I think our club is crucial on campus just for the sake of providing those resources, we provide information – not even only from us, we have guest speakers who’ve struggled,” Cashwell-Doe said.
Being in a college environment – learning to support oneself without the direct help from parents or guardians while also trying to manage an increased schoolwork load and make a whole new group of friends – can be extremely overwhelming and trigger mental health issues that one may not have known they had.
“This is the first time you don’t have mommy and daddy. You’re supposed to be so mature and you’re acting like you’re an adult,” Borges said.
Knowing that students may not be comfortable seeking help from professionals, the peer group has learned how to create a comfortable space for allyship.
Borges continued, “I think it’s so important that you have others who are going through similar aspects but just being real about it. It’s okay to be open about these things because guess what? At the end of the day it’s going to make you better at what you want to do. When you’re emotionally feeling good about yourself, you’re gonna find your way in places that you’ve never seen before.”
“People always have stuff going on and we want people to know that it’s okay not to be okay,” Coyle said. “It’s okay to let your feelings out and not be all smiley and happy every day like the people you see around here.
“Our goal is to uplift people and make them realize that they matter and their emotions are valid.”
One day, the smiles will return – uncovered – to the faces of Springfield College students. Though they may still be hiding demons, the peer-to-peer relationships will still be there, ready for battle.