A Giant Step Forward for a DeSales Graduate

by Janelle Hill | Dec 21, 2017

Jaclyn Silvestri '16 and Rashad Jennings

Jaclyn Silvestri ’16 is a diehard New York Giants fan. That’s not surprising considering she grew up in Warwick, New York. Ask those who know her and they’ll tell you it’s also not surprising that she ended up working for one of the Giants straight out of college. 

“When I met Jaclyn, I knew that she was going to have an awesome future,” says Bill Peterson ’14, learning support specialist and tutoring coordinator in the Academic Resource Center. “She came in and she was a go-getter. She knew what her long-term goals were and she knew what she wanted to achieve.” 

As students, Peterson served as Silvestri’s peer mentor in Gateway to Success, a college readiness program that provides extra academic support for qualifying students.

“My grades [in high school] were not great,” says Silvestri. “I was always the one who socialized too much in class. I was more focused on cheerleading, dance, and my social life than school. Gateway really knocked me into my place.”

Her mother had heard about the program and pushed her to apply. Silvestri did but her first visit to campus didn’t go quite as planned, considering she just had knee surgery days before.  

“My mom dragged me here in like 90-degree weather on crutches and on medicine, and I was not happy about it.”

During her second visit, Silvestri met with Ann Koefer, director of the Academic Resource Center, and was reminded of the tight-knit community she came from.

“Meeting Ann was really my deciding factor,” she says. “She was like having another mom here. I knew I could always go to her if I needed anything. She gave me that security.” 

During her freshman year, Silvestri met with Koefer and Peterson, who made sure she was staying on top of her studies. She credits Gateway with teaching her different study skills and learning techniques, such as highlighting, skimming, and, most importantly, time management.

“The transition from high school to college is difficult,” she says. “Gateway is a good program for everyone to go through, not just students who struggle with grades or financially. They put you on the right path and then they’re always there if you need them.”

During her time at DeSales, Silvestri also served as vice president of external relations for the Sport Management Society. It was through that club that she began volunteering at the Giants draft party. She eventually ended up interning with the Rashad Jennings Foundation. Once she graduated, Jennings, then a running back with the Giants, asked her to be his executive assistant.

“I knew that this was such a unique position and that so many people would love to be in my shoes. When an NFL player asks you to work for him straight out of college, you don’t say no.”

As executive assistant, Silvestri tackles scheduling, social media, trademarks, and other day-to-day responsibilities. Working for a pro football player also comes with its perks. 

Silvestri has gone to Super Bowl Week the past two years and received free tickets to games. She was even able to take her dad, a fellow Giants fan, onto the field for his birthday.

“We completely surprised him,” she says. “Until this day, he’s like, ‘you’ll never top that. That was the best gift.’”

She also got to hold the coveted mirrorball trophy after Jennings won season 24 of Dancing with the Stars. He’s currently a free agent and guest starring in the NBC sitcom Great News.

Silvestri calls Jennings one of her best friends and jokes that their working relationship has taken on more of a familial tone. “I know that’s bizarre but we joke around all the time about how I’m his mom. I mother him to death. He’s like my cub as far as I’m concerned. It’s an awesome relationship.”

Looking back, Silvestri considers herself lucky. Lucky to have landed a job she loves right out of college and lucky to have been given a chance to thrive in the Gateway program. 

“I would have a completely different life if it wasn’t for Gateway. I would not be the person I am today; I would not be where I am today. It’s really funny how one little decision impacts your entire life.”

 This article originally appeared in the DeSales Magazine Fall 2016 issue. 

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