Nov. 21, 2013
Redshirt senior guard Lexie Gerson has been a Cavalier fan-favorite since first stepping onto the court at John Paul Jones Arena in 2009. Two years ago, she was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team, earning recognition for the hard-nosed, defensive-minded play that has riled up the home crowds for the last four seasons. Gerson racked up 113 steals her junior year, ranking her in the top-three in the ACC and the top-15 in the nation, often serving as the catalyst to fire up the Cavalier offense.
"In a game, I really feed off the crowd," Gerson said. "If they are pumping me up, I'll be interacting back. It is a great relationship I have with our fans."
It is more than just an at-arms-distance relationship. Gerson also makes time to interact with fans, especially young ones, after games, talking to each and every person during autograph sessions, getting to know a little bit about all of them as she signs away.
"I just really like people," Gerson said, with a broad, genuine smile.
Gerson has taken her love of people past autograph sessions and outside of the arena into the Charlottesville community. Over the course of the last four years, she has spent countless hours in the community, volunteering at the Hope 4 Kids Program, Christmas in July, Cale Elementary School Third Grade Plays, VABA Basketball Clinics as well as the Read To A Child Week.
"The biggest project I have worked on is volunteering in the ACE program," Gerson said. "It is a service project that stands for Athletes Committed to Community and Education. I have been involved since my freshman year. I go one day a week for about an hour and a half. This year, I am working with PE classes at Jack Jouett Middle School. I played football with them last week because the boys were talking a little stuff, so I had to play. We've also played tennis but haven't gotten to basketball yet- I can't wait for that. There are little scooters and they play something similar to hand ball on them- I was the goalie since I couldn't really move anywhere on them- but we do mainly real sports. My favorite part about working with them is just walking in and seeing the looks on the kids' faces. They're so happy to see me and just be around me, and that's enough that if I can do that for them, it's my favorite part."
Her work with the ACE program hasn't just been about playing games. She works hard to try to help the kids and make a difference in their lives and their educational experience.
"There's one girl now who I want to get to know who jus transferred in," Gerson said. "She's an ESL student, so she doesn't speak a lot of English. Being in the Higher Ed program at UVa, this is something I have studied about, how hard of a transition it is. Gym is really the only place where she's with everyone else. Everywhere else, she's separated and the ESL kids become their own little group, which I don't think is a good thing because when they're by themselves and don't get to know anyone else. I want to try to hook her up with a buddy at least and just try to see how I can help her."
Gerson had the desire to volunteer instilled in her when she was still in high school at the Peddie School in Highstown, N.J., working food drives and other projects that helped out those in need. It was something she continued to prioritize once she came to Virginia.
"I think it's important for everyone to give back, but especially athletes," Gerson said. "We live in a society where athletes are put on a pedestal. It's kind of like Spiderman: `With great power comes great responsibility.' If people are looking up to me just because I play a sport, then I should definitely be able to use that for good."
Her favorite projects have been ones where she has actually gotten to meet some of the people benefiting from her efforts.
"I think my favorite project was something we did for the Ronald McDonald House," Gerson said. "The team pooled together money to purchase all the ingredients for a big dinner for the families staying there. We went to the house and cooked for them. That was fun but it was also really interesting because there were people who were staying there who we could interact with and see what they've been going through. That got really personal, just seeing what they've been going through and getting involved with that while helping them.
"Habitat for Humanity had the same kind of feel- to physically be with someone who is going to live in that house and work side-by-side with them is a whole different experience. They're working hard because they're going to live there, and they're thankful, and you get to be a part of that with them. It's a lot more personal than others. It's a great perspective for sure."