Jocelyn Simpson, a 2010 graduate of Joliet Catholic Academy, laced up her first pair of ice skates at the age of five. Although, she initially started as a figure skater, she quickly made the move to ice hockey after watching her brothers play. She loves the competitiveness and full contact of the sport. “I fell in love with the game, and I love getting better at it every day. I tried other sports, but hockey is what makes me happy.”
She played on competitive teams throughout her youth. She was on the AAA competitive girls’ team during high school and played Division I hockey at Colgate University, competing against schools like Harvard and Yale. “I loved being on such a high-energy team at Colgate. My teammates were my best friends at college.”
Growing up, Simpson’s parents were always encouraging her to give back to her community through service to others. “Both of my parents went to JCA. Having attended JCA myself, I understood where my parents’ morals came from. They were always motivating me to be the best person I could be. My parents were always volunteering their time. Seeing their willingness to give back coupled with my own experience volunteering through JCA has instilled the desire to help others in me.”
Simpson was an education major at Colgate, focused on special education. Through her studies, she began to learn about autism. She also encountered autism firsthand since the manager for her hockey team was autistic. Simpson learned about her and her struggles, and wanted to do something to help.
At Colgate, Simpson knew that she wanted to do something that involved her two passions: helping others and hockey. She started a “Learn to Skate” camp that focused on teaching kids with autism how to skate. The week-long camp paired an autistic student with one of the players on her team. Working one-on-one, the girls taught the participants how to skate. “The goal was to get them on ice and comfortable with skating and socializing. Pairing each student with one of my teammates helped the students break out of their shell. During my senior year, we worked with 15 skaters. By the end of the week, many of them were able to skate on their own, and those who were scared to get on the ice at the beginning of the week were on the ice by the end of the week.”
Seeing her passion to help others, Simpson’s coaches nominated her for the 2014 Hockey Humanitarian Award. Nominees are solicited from every Division I through Division III college varsity hockey programs across the county. This award honors the athletes for their commitment to their communities on and off the ice. Of all the nominations the HHA received, Simpson was recognized as one of the top five players that year.
Simpson takes great pride in the fact that even though she has graduated from Colgate, her teammates are committed to continuing the “Learn to Skate” program by making it a yearly event.
Currently, Simpson is living in Boston and teaching at a center for students with autism. She is in a classroom with 10 boys, age 13 to 18 years old. She is teaching these students academic and living skills, like caring for themselves.