Second-year law student Raven Venegas got more than she bargained for at ONU
Ohio Northern University’s Pettit College of Law has a reputation for being a place where students focus on their studies largely free of distractions. This reputation is only partially due to ONU’s rural Ada, Ohio, locale. It also stems from the faculty’s commitment to teaching and an unrelenting respect for the rule of law. Going to law school at Ohio Northern can be an immersive experience, and for some, that can take some getting used to.
Second-year law student Raven Venegas quickly realized just how different her undergraduate experience at her previous university would be from her graduate experience at ONU. Venegas is a doer. As an undergrad, she was a double major with two minors and even completed two internships during her senior year. She was equally active outside of the classroom, participating in student clubs, volunteering in the community and playing varsity golf.
I was very used to constantly having to balance my life and plan things out and just really have a good sense of time management,” she says. “And when I went to law school, all of that changed. I didn’t have extracurricular activities. I didn’t think that I had time to do other things, and so my first semester of law school was exhausting in the sense that I was constantly doing schoolwork. That’s amazing for some people, but, especially as a former college athlete, it was driving me crazy.
In order to find more balance, Venegas searched for things she could do around campus to help her shift gears. A good friend in the law school was at ONU’s King Horn Sports Center one day and saw the golf laboratory. Knowing Venegas’ past life as a collegiate golfer, he texted her a photo of the space. She was intrigued, so she decided to ask the golf coach if there was any way that she could use the room to work on her game. She actually hadn’t golfed in quite awhile, but she knew she needed to add to her daily routine. When she found the golf coach’s name on ONU’s website, she almost couldn’t believe it.
“I had actually recruited Raven to play golf at another university when I was the golf coach there,” says ONU golf coach Chad Bucci. “She remembered me, and I remembered her, so I was happy to accommodate her when she emailed me about using our golf lab.”
But what started out as a simple request from a student to a coach to use some facilities soon turned around. Bucci discovered that Venegas actually had one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, and so he asked her if she’d like to do more than just practice golf. He asked her to join the ONU golf team.
Venegas said yes, but not without first giving it some considerable thought. She only had eligibility left because she stopped playing at her previous school after her junior year. To say she lost her passion for the sport is putting it mildly.
“Within the first year of playing in college, I hated it. I absolutely hated golf. I literally did it because it was a funding to my education, and then when I quit after my third year, I told my parents I was never playing again,” she says.
But when Bucci presented her with the opportunity last January, she decided to give it a try. She remembered really liking Bucci when he recruited her, and she only decided to play elsewhere because of the scholarship opportunities the NCAA Division II school she attended was able to provide. She also liked the prospect of getting back into a routine, but she still was anxious about joining an established team halfway through the year.
“It was a little nerve-wracking. They’re a very close team,” she says. “So I was just kind of hoping to fit in at that point. Come in, golf, make some new friends and then just kind of carry on my way.”
She discovered that it would be impossible to simply “carry on her way” and just be a member of the ONU golf team. They are too close-knit. If she was going to compete with them, she was going to be one of them. Venegas welcomed the closeness and found herself becoming more than just a teammate. She helped the freshmen deal with the mental side of the game and helped to reassure them when things in their lives got too hectic. For the older players planning for life after graduation, she helped them prep for job interviews or grad school applications. At 23, she’s already done those things, and she was happy to share her experiences.
“The running joke was that I was the team mom,” she says.
While Venegas was looking out for her younger teammates, she also had people looking out for her. It is very rare for a law student to play a sport at ONU and with good reason. Law school is demanding. Not only did Dean David Crago have to sign off on Venegas playing, but he remained actively involved as she balanced being a varsity athlete with being a law student.
The law school was wonderful in not only helping to accommodate me, but also making sure that I was still successful in academics," she says. "And the thing is, this school’s really good at understanding the importance of getting out. It’s the students who put too much pressure on themselves. I’ll see Dean Crago in the hallway, and he’ll ask, ‘Why are you not outside? It’s beautiful, 75 degrees. Go golf!’
In the end, Venegas not only successfully managed playing golf as a law student, but also thrived. She played so well and maintained such good grades that she was one of three student-athletes nominated by Bucci for the Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-American Scholar Team.
“That just speaks to why I love ONU," she says. "The recognition you get when you do well here is not something I’m used to. I had a 3.98 GPA in undergrad, and I never once received that kind of academic recognition.”
In Venegas, Bucci got the player he’d recruited five years prior, but so much more. Not only has she brought recognition to the program as an All-OAC performer and an All-American Scholar, but she’s contributed leadership and set a wonderful example for her teammates to emulate.
“She had a great final chapter to her golfing career,” says Bucci.