This year’s Niagara University Sabres Scholars with members of the Buffalo Sabres leadership team.

Ten students in Niagara University’s College of Hospitality, Sport, and Tourism Management are beginning a unique four-year program that will give them special access and opportunities in the field of professional sports with one of the leaders in the industry.

As participants in Niagara University’s Sabres Scholars Program, the students will be mentored by the hockey organization’s leadership team and take part in exclusive activities at LECOM Harborcenter and other sport and hospitality venues in Western New York, starting in their freshman year. Select rising NU juniors will have the additional opportunity to complete a paid internship experience with the Sabres. In addition, each student receives a $1,500 “signing bonus” in the form of a one-time scholarship.

“This first-of-its-kind educational experience will create unprecedented career pathways into this exciting and evolving industry,” said Dr. Bridget Niland, dean of the College of Hospitality, Sport, and Tourism Management. “We are pleased to partner with the Sabres to create this exceptional opportunity for our students.’

Activities include behind-the-scenes tours of Western New York stadiums and training centers, meetings with staff and management within the Sabres organization, a semester-long case study or event observation within a specific department of the organization, and opportunities to apply for both temporary positions and paid internships. Sabres Scholars will also learn about the organizational culture, gain the specific industry knowledge they need to pursue a career in the field, and complete a capstone project that will enhance their work portfolio. Mentorship begins in the sophomore year and continues throughout the program to assist in their transition into the job marketplace, whether in the Sabres organization or beyond.

The program launched last year with its inaugural class of 10 Sabres Pioneers.

“As a Sabres Pioneer, my eyes have been opened up to the variety of opportunities that are within the sports industry, and it has given me an opportunity to see everything live!” said junior Dominic Lewis, a Buffalo, N.Y., native. “It has greatly heightened my knowledge and has exposed me to wanting to try every aspect of the sport industry, all while being able to be in my hometown!”

This year’s group of Sabres Scholars will officially be introduced during the Oct. 29 game between the Sabres and the Colorado Avalanche. They include freshmen Julianna Blaser, Chloe Guagliano, Zachary Hartwig, Nicholas Jacobs, Ethan Jasmin, Keniel Rivera Reyes, Jared Schmitt, John Weglarski, Natalie Zwelling, and junior Janell Steed.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience to work with those in the professional industry,” said Steed, a Buffalo native. “My future goal is to work for the NBA, WNBA, or the NFL, so this is perfect preparation. I’m most excited to learn what behind-the-scene game days are like and how to prepare for other events involving our Buffalo community.”

Zwelling, another Buffalo native, said that she grew up watching Buffalo sports and began playing hockey after attending a few Sabres games, so she is excited to learn more about her favorite team, her city, and how the wide variety of behind-the-scenes jobs help to create amazing and memorable experiences for fans at every game.

“I learned to love not only the sport, but the community around it,” she said. “As I grew older, I realized I wanted to give back to my community and to my sport. I'm very interested in working to make the game experience fun and entertaining for fans, and for me that's working with graphics and anything else on the board. I remember seeing my name on the board for my birthday, and it made the entire night for me. Seeing kids' faces light up when they're shown on the board is amazing. I hope to be a part of creating those memories.”