Supported By a Culture of Kindness


One reason that Zach Sims chose to attend Shippensburg University was its proximity to home—he needed to keep his family close. As the finance and entrepreneurship major finishes his senior year, he’s found that his family has expanded tremendously at Ship.

Having his mom in the stands as Sims played baseball through high school meant the world to him, so he joined the Raiders baseball team knowing it was a reasonable driving distance from Middletown. “Most people want to go away for college, but I wanted my mom to be able to attend my games.”

Balancing athletics and academics was demanding, but having that student-athlete community behind him pushed him through some challenging personal
moments. “The things that have meant the most to me are the relationships. I’ve experienced hardships. I’m an open book type of person—it’s my way to vent and deal with things.”

Fortunately, Sims found nothing but support on the field and in the classroom. Whether dealing with personal issues or trying to find the motivation to tackle class projects, his teammates, classmates, coaches, and professors held him up. 

Sims needed that support more than ever during the summer of 2017. He was relishing one of the highlights of his college career as he returned from playing with the Raiders in the regional tournament. “Our most memorable season was sophomore year,” he said. “We were on the way home, got in late, and my brother called. My mom was in the hospital.”

A lot of it is about the culture here. It’s about the acts of kindness.

Although he was concerned, he’d hoped his mom would be admitted and released the next day. Instead, doctors found a mass on her lung. She had stage 3 lung cancer. She was a smoker, but she was young. Sims wasn’t sure what that would mean going forward, but he knew he needed to be with her every step of the way.

The diagnosis was complicated. She needed chemotherapy and radiation. Doctors said she might lose weight, so Sims helped her follow a plan to stay healthy and strong. “It was hard to do. At the end of the day, it’s me and my mom. I needed to be there for her. For me, it was the least I could do for her.”

He briefly wondered if he was close enough to home, but he knew he had to stay at Ship. “I knew there was zero chance that my mom would let me not go back to school. Being successful is what was going to make her happy.”

Sims traveled to Middletown to be with his mom during doctor’s appointments, treatments, surgeries, and recoveries. Last fall, they received good news that his mom’s tumor had reduced in size and could be surgically removed. The surgery did remove the tumor, but also required removing part of her lung. It was a difficult recovery. Over winter break last year, he worked to help his mom navigate life with an oxygen tank and build her endurance.

Today, he proudly reports that she hardly uses oxygen and is doing remarkably well. “One thing I value more than anything is my family.”  

Sims knew that he could support his mom because, in turn, his Ship family was present to support him emotionally, academically, and financially. Sims is a recipient of the Gerald R. Fetrow Baseball Scholarship and the Shirley Fry Fox Scholarship. “A lot of it is about the culture here. It’s about the acts of kindness.”

Sims said he started at Ship with ten student-athletes, and they’ve stuck together. It’s a strong group who has taken the time to get to know each other personally. “It’s eye opening. You get a picture of how other people’s worlds are.”

With his final semester approaching, he is focused on a career in finance. He completed an internship with Polaris Advisers over the summer and is working with the Career, Mentoring, and Professional Development Center to secure a local position in his field.