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Student athlete Chuck Porcelli

Chuck Porcelli

Chuck Porcelli

Student athletes have their hands full juggling the demands of their academic and athletic schedules, leaving little room for extracurricular involvement. But don’t tell that to Chuck Porcelli. Not only has he earnsed a spot as a starting offensive tackle for the Northwestern Wildcats, he has performed above and beyond the call of duty in the university’s Learning and Organizational Change program while battling childhood illnesses as part of a national program known as Uplifting Athletes.

Porcelli is a 2008 graduate of Montini High School, where he played offensive tackle for the varsity team all four years. His freshman year, the team even won the state title, and he was named All Conference his senior year. The son of Chuck and Dagmar Porcelli of Oak Brook, he is the grandson of legendary community leaders Marge and the late Charles Porcelli. Though he was being scouted by several well-known universities, Porcelli chose Northwestern because of its balance of academic and athletic excellence.

Porcelli will graduate this month with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Education and Social Policy, with a major in Learning and Organizational Change. The Learning and Organizational Change program is relatively new and unique, according to Porcelli. “The major teaches you how people learn and how to lead them,” he explains.

Coursework focuses on cognitive science and psychology, learning theory, education in the workplace, adult development and organizational structures. The program also offers a wealth of real-world experiences. “We are not just doing case studies in the classroom, we are doing work in the community,” he says. Porcelli’s commitment to the program doesn’t end with his coursework. During his senior year, he has served as an ambassador for the program, encouraging student enrollment and alumni generosity.

Porcelli has excelled on the football field as well, earning a coveted starting spot in his final year with the team. A typical day in the life starts with football meetings at dawn to prepare for the mental aspect of the sport, followed by speed, agility and weight training until noon. “The Sports Performance Program does a great job of getting us ready for the season,” he says. After that, it’s coursework and studying until well into the evening. “It’s very easy to want to go back and sleep after a long practice, but I have to push through the day and make my grades,” Porcelli says.

Porcelli lives with four of his teammates off campus in the O-Line House. They’re the ones who got him involved with Uplifting Athletes, a national program that has chapters at several other universities. “We use our platform as college athletes to raise awareness for a rare disease,” says Porcelli. Last summer, the team raised funds to fight Niemann-Pick Type C, a disease affecting 200,000 Americans that hampers the breakdown of cholesterol from birth. The disease really hit home for the team because the three youngest grandchildren of legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian are afflicted with it.

Last July, the team held its first-ever Lift for Life event to raise funds and awareness. The team broke up into four squads on a warm summer day at Northwestern’s Ryan Field in Evanston. More than 200 fans came out to watch them compete in lifting, running, and agility exercises. “It was our last workout before our summer break and a great experience for fans to see us practice,” says Porcelli. Team members sold wristbands, t-shirts, hot dogs and burgers to raise funds, and even competed to see who could raise the most money via the internet. Another Lift for Life event is scheduled this summer, and the team hopes to bring in an ex-Marine who earned two Purple Hearts to stir up attention and involvement.

Because he was red-shirted as a freshman, a common approach to new team members that gives them a chance to learn the ropes while starting their academic career, Porcelli will finish his fourth season as a Wildcat in the fall, even though he graduates this semester. Porcelli credits Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald with his ability to excel both on and off the field.

Through Coach Fitzgerald’s mentor program, Porcelli was teamed up as a sophomore with Bill Draznik, an executive at Humana Insurance who played for Joliet Catholic in high school and Northwestern in college. “I talk to Bill every week,” Porcelli says. “Our mentors introduce us to their friends, we share common interests, and it’s a way to meet people and build a personal and professional connection. Our coaches want to make sure we are set for the real world after football.”

As for the real world, Porcelli has his eye on an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. “Football doesn’t last forever, and you need a quality education, which is why I came to Northwestern.” With his stellar athletic, academic and extracurricular record, Porcelli is on the fast track to success.

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary's college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.