Julia Shwayder

Occidental College |


Julia Shwayder, a senior defender for the Occidental College women’s lacrosse team, has dealt with numerous personal hardships during her four years of college. During the summer of her freshman year (2019), her father, Scott, unexpectedly died by suicide. Although distraught, the 19-year-old returned to campus that fall and remained fully enrolled and committed to her academics and athletics. However, in spring 2020, when her lacrosse season was cut short due to COVID-19, she returned home to Colorado, leaving behind her support system of friends and teammates. After spending the spring and summer there, she returned to Los Angeles for the fall semester, sharing an apartment with teammates, but depression brought on by a variety of factors, including COVID restrictions and a mysterious liver ailment, forced her to return home again.

Then, at the end of her junior year (May 2021), while visiting campus to attend the graduation ceremony, her good friend and teammate Zoe tragically lost her life. This added considerable psychological stress and heartache to the emotional state of the entire team, but especially to Julia, who was still grieving the loss of her father. Despite the shock and sadness, she took charge of the situation and helped her teammates navigate the difficult times. Now, back on campus for her senior year, Julia is balancing a full academic load, playing varsity athletics, and preparing for life after college. A psychology major, she plans to attend graduate school to become a therapist and to help those who also struggle with mental health issues.

Toward that end, she is a member of Active Minds, a mental health club on campus, and she has organized team walks with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Counseling really helped me get through these difficult circumstances,” said Shwayder. “During my personal grieving, the distance of school from home and time well spent with my friends helped to take my mind off my father’s death. I had a great support system at school, but due to COVID, I was forced to return home, which honestly helped me process my dad’s death in a way I was unable to at school.”
Julia Shwayder, Occidental College