ClemsonLIFE program touches Boston College linebacker Divitto

by - Senior Writer -
Collette and Steele express their opinions on Death Valley.

There is no doubt that Steele Divitto’s loyalties reside at Boston College, a team that that he gives his all for on college football Saturdays in the fall. But for the past two seasons, a large piece of Divitto’s heart has also resided in Clemson.

The Butkus Award candidate has totaled 184 tackles for the Eagles during his first three seasons, and enters this season as one of the leaders of the Boston College defense as well as being mentioned on several award watch lists.

His hard-hitting style and aggressive style of play have earned Divitto recognition across the league, but the hard-nosed linebacker turns into a loving brother when he talks about his older sister Collette.

Collette spent the last two years – leaving her family and home in Connecticut behind – in the ClemsonLIFE program, a two year program incorporating functional academics, independent living, employment, and social/leisure skills in a public university setting with the goal of producing self-sufficient young adults.

Many Clemson fans were introduced to the program last year, when Clemson Equipment produced a video about student manager David Saville and the impact he had on the Clemson football program.

Students successfully completing the two year program will receive a certificate of postsecondary education. For select students, an optional third year is available to assist with job placement and community integration with a decreased level of supports.

Divitto almost melts when talking about Collette, a 22-year old who was born with Down Syndrome.

“She loves to bake, and she loves bowling and her family,” Divitto told TigerNet at the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro earlier this week. “She is always so energetic, and you always see a smile on her face. She changes people’s lives. She is unbelievable. We have always treated her the same, and she is constantly trying to challenge herself. When she does, she rises to the occasion. Besides riding a bike and driving a car, she has done everything. She knows every day is harder for her than a normal person, but she still goes about it with a smile on her face.”

Collette, like any young person her age, wanted to experience life on a college campus and the ClemsonLIFE program gave her that opportunity, although it was hard for Divitto and his parents to see Collette have to travel all the way to South Carolina for two years.

“That was pretty hard. My parents are separated right now, so that was a huge decision on our part,” he said. “You have to put a lot of trust in the people in the program. It was stressful, but you could tell she was genuinely happy, and even though she missed home she grew as a person. She always dreamed of a college life, and that program gave her that chance. They have a ton of volunteers and it is very well-run. The people down there are very, very nice people.”

Collette is back with her family after completing the program, and is now tackling other life challenges head-on.

“She has graduated, and she did great in the classroom,” Divitto said. “The program was great for her, and it let her experience life and let her make her own decisions. She has street smarts. She is amazing, and she has always exceeded people’s expectations. She can enter a room and not know anybody, but everybody knows her by the time we leave. She just brings out the best in people.”

According to Divitto, Collette fully embraced her time at Clemson, but remained loyal to her brother when he played against Clemson.

“We would always wonder, ‘Is she going to be a Clemson fan, or a BC fan?’ That was the question,” he said. “The week of the Clemson game, she would say, ‘Steele, guess who I am going to root for?’ I would say, ‘Who?’ And she would say, ‘Boston College. You are gonna kick Clemson’s butt.’ She is awesome, and she is one of the most selfless people I know. I am so blessed to have her in my life, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her in my life. When I see her, my eyes light up.”

Divitto took time out at the ACC Kickoff to talk to Clemson quarterback Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
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about the program – Boyd and several Clemson players volunteer their time to ClemsonLIFE.

“The way they handled her and took care of her speaks volumes about the type of program they have,” Divitto said. “I talked to Tajh about it, and he actually met Collette, and that says a lot about their players that they get involved with these kids. It was cool to hear his experiences of hanging out with those kids, and it speaks volumes that some of their players are involved.”

Boyd told TigerNet that working with the program was rewarding.

“I think it is great. Honestly, in the position I am in right now, you get looked up to a lot,” Boyd said. “But it is important to make sure that you can be touched, and to see the joy in those kids’ faces is worth it. I really enjoy working with them, and I get more joy out of it than they do. They touch your life. Seeing the smiles on their faces means more to me than anything.”

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