Lighting the way for UCSB

Eleanor Roosevelt had the best advice when America descended into its Great Depression, saying that it was better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Athletes Allison Ariniello and Adriana Collins are bringing that kind of spark to the gloom that has gripped UCSB this spring. They are among 10 seniors selected to speak at the university's eight commencement ceremonies that will conclude this weekend.

Ariniello, the Gauchos' leading scorer in soccer last fall, will address the Sciences graduation, set for 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Faculty Club Green. Collins, a pitcher on the softball team, will speak on Sunday at the same time and location during the Social Sciences II ceremony.

They will both portray a UCSB that has endured the recent murder of six students and wounding of 13 others and emerged as a brighter place.

"I wanted my speech to be light and positive, especially after what's happened," Ariniello said. "We've gone through events that have actually brought the UCSB community much closer together.

"I will end by asking, 'What is your story? What are you going to do after you graduate?' I want to focus on how UCSB has prepared us to enter the professional world."

It will be a challenging world for Ariniello, a Cell and Developmental Biology major with a grade-point average of 3.91. She has applied to 23 medical schools after having already made plenty of rounds as an intern in the emergency rooms, labor and delivery rooms, and even the surgical units of several local hospitals.

"The girls on the team liked to call me Dr. Dino, because I'd do this little celebration dance with my arms in close like a dinosaur after scoring a goal," she said. "

Ariniello also served a two-year internship at a UCSB research lab with renowned scientists Ed Orias and Eileen Hamilton. Her soccer team didn't quite make it into the top 25, but "UCSB was ranked eighth in the world in terms of scientific impact," she said proudly.

She's made enough of an impact herself to get nominated by the Big West Conference as its candidate for NCAA Woman of the Year. The winner will be announced next fall.

"A coach is pretty lucky when he gets an athlete who has Allie's kind of commitment and responsibility and respect for those around her," Gaucho soccer coach Paul Stumpf said. "It didn't matter what the score was, it didn't matter if it was a 7 a.m. practice, it didn't matter if there were just five minutes left to go in a game - she would always just work."

Collins, a 3.68 student in communications with plans for law school, struck a chord with the committee that selected the commencement speakers with "the Gauchoness" of her audition.

"I wanted it to be something uplifting and about, 'What's our next step?'" she said. "I think people are looking for something that can bring a bright light to everything that's gone on.

"The way we've come together through this is such a testament to how our Gaucho pride is stronger than ever."

She brought that light to Gaucho softball for four years, coach Brie Galicinao said.

"She's not only a fantastic student but she helps out her teammates, too," she said. "She's the go-to person for being a mentor for all that stuff that's off the field."

One of Collins' housemates, sophomore pitcher Ashley Ludlow, lived in the same freshman dorm as one of the coeds who was shot to death during the Isla Vista massacre.

"Ashley made some beaded bracelets with the words 'IV Strong' that were originally just for our house and our team," Collins said. "But other people saw them, they'd ask about getting one of their own.

"A bunch of us - (infielders) Kat Pilpil and Lauren Boser, and (volleyball player) Katie Thompson - started making more of them and selling them out on Pardall Road, with the money all going to the UCSB Community Fund."

Several I.V. Foot Patrol officers are now even wearing them.

"My speech will be inclusive," Collins said, "of sharing experiences and memories."

Joy, after all, enjoys company just as much as misery does.

Mark Patton's Saturday column will now be moving to Sundays. Email: mpatton@newspress.com