For recent Ocean City High School graduate Faith Slimmer, it was a personal decision.
The soccer standout verbally committed to NCAA Division I Rutgers University when she was in eighth grade, but that all changed March 25 when the university mandated that all of its students who are enrolled in the 2021 fall semester receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Slimmer, along with her two younger sisters, Hope and Joy, and parents, Mario and Stephanie, do not want to get vaccinated for various reasons, including religious ones.
Because of Rutgers’ requirement, Faith decommitted about two months ago from the Scarlet Knights. The topic of whether colleges should mandate vaccinations has been controversial across the country.
Rutgers declined to comment on the situation.
“I think it should be my choice,” said Faith Slimmer, 18, of Upper Township. “If I don’t want to get it, I don’t think I should be forced into it.”
Last month, Slimmer committed to play soccer at the College of Charleston, an NCAA Division I program in South Carolina. The Ocean City girls soccer program leader in career goals (100) and assists (63) also looked at other schools, including some in the Southeastern Conference.
Besides Rutgers, a majority of colleges around the state and nation are requiring students to get the vaccine. Charleston only encourages its students to receive it.
Slimmer cited many “unknowns” for decommitting from Rutgers, saying “there were a lot of questions going into this fall.”
But religious reasons, medical concerns and not being in full agreement with the vaccine also played into the decision, Mario Slimmer said.
Ocean City High School girls soccer player Faith Slimmer has been selected to compete in the…
Faith Slimmer emailed the program days before Rutgers mandated the vaccine, informing the school she was not planning to get the vaccine and asking how it would affect her academic and playing status going forward. A member of the Rutgers women’s soccer staff called her back within minutes, unable to give an answer, Mario Slimmer said.
“I believe some of our liberties are slowly being taken away, and I kind of feel like the state is using our students as leverage,” Mario Slimmer said. “It stinks to be in that situation. You should still have an option.”
Without answers to her questions, such as not knowing her living situation, concerns about traveling with team or even being able to play, Faith Slimmer decided Charleston was the better fit.
The United States has more than 162 million people fully vaccinated (48.9% of the country) as of Friday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rutgers mandates its students show proof of vaccination by any of the three currently authorized (Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) options.
At Rutgers, students can be exempt for religious or medical reasons.
Faith Slimmer had a memorable senior season.
Despite her main reason for not wanting to get the vaccine being religious, Slimmer did not apply for a religious exemption because it could’ve taken “months” to get an answer, Mario Slimmer said, adding they wanted to make sure she was able to get on the field this season.
The Slimmers follow God in their decisions, Stephanie Slimmer said. The mother cited Proverbs 3:5-6 as a Bible verse the family considers important.
“‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path,’” said Stephanie Slimmer, reading the verse. “We pray about a lot of things in our lives, and we try to follow God and trust in His path for our family.”
“It was after a lot of crying. She was really upset,” Mario Slimmer said, adding Faith was excited to be able to represent New Jersey. “I get choked up myself. She was recruited so early.”
“She really wanted to play for her state,” Stephanie Slimmer said. “She is a Jersey girl through and through.”
Chuck Donohue is in his 50th season as a high school football coach.
Slimmer is excited to play at Charleston, saying the program has an amazing coaching staff and players. Also, her grandparents live on James Island, which is about 15 minutes from campus. So she anticipates them coming to most of her games and loves knowing family is nearby.
John Jenks, the coach of her travel team, PDA Soccer, first contacted Charleston and initiated the negotiations for a new scholarship, which was hard to get from other schools being so late. But Charleston women’s soccer coach Christian Michner matched Rutgers’ offer for a full ride and added a fifth year option, if necessary.
The Slimmers appreciated the generosity.
“I was definitely disappointed when I asked (Rutgers) for my release, but, ultimately, it is what was best for me at this time,” Slimmer said. “I’m excited for the new chapter at Charleston and hoping I can make an impact there and keep growing as a player.”
Slimmer was The Press Girls Soccer Player of the Year in 2019 and 2020.
“(Rutgers was) definitely disappointed, like me, but they understood and respected my decision,” Slimmer said. “But I’m a hard believer that God has a plan for me, so I just have to trust Him. If I wasn’t supposed to be at Rutgers, then I wasn’t supposed to be there. But I’m just happy to still be able to play in college.”
Ocean City soccer standout Faith Slimmer walked away from Rutgers over its vaccine requirement. Do you agree with her decision?
Contact Patrick Mulranen: 609-272-7217
“I think it should be my choice. If I don’t want to get (the vaccine), I don’t think I should be forced into it.”