Sean Dorcellus ’21 was inspired by the words and sense of purpose that WNBA star and social activist Maya Moore shared in a virtual event associated with the 36th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Syracuse University. As moderator of the conversation, Dorcellus sat in Hendricks Chapel, with Moore appearing before him on a large video screen from her Atlanta area home. He asked her questions that were interspersed with recorded queries from members of the Orange women’s and men’s basketball teams. Moore talked about social change, activism and her spirituality. “She’s the most decorated female basketball player of her generation—and she walked away from all of that because she felt a greater purpose,” says Dorcellus, co-chair of the 2021 MLK celebration planning committee. “At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you. And it is really special when what’s best for you helps other people, which is what she’s doing. For me, that’s really inspiring.”
The idea of having a positive impact on society resonates deeply with Dorcellus, a broadcast and digital journalism major at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The Woodbridge, New Jersey, native is a person of strong faith who loves the world of sports and sees it as an influential catalyst for change. At Syracuse University, Dorcellus has traveled his own path, gathering an array of experiences and building his network as he looks toward a future centered on sports—whether in a broadcast booth or an executive suite. With its well-known broadcasting program and acclaimed lineup of alumni sportscasters, he has fully embraced his Newhouse experiences. “The communication skills that I have learned as a result of being a broadcast and digital journalism major are invaluable,” he says. “I had some pretty good communication skills coming into SU, but those have all been enhanced by having the opportunity to work hands-on in class, interviewing people on campus and in the community, and working with other students.”
Along with his Newhouse activities, Dorcellus has been an orientation leader and also hosted Home to the Dome during Welcome Week for first-year students in 2019. He’s served as a game-day operations intern with Syracuse Athletics and logged time interning and working with the University’s media relations and social media teams, writing articles, doing the student ’Cuse Cast, and posting content to media platforms. “The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve connected with at the University have helped to guide me on a wonderful path,” he says. “They have supported me and given me advice that I’ve been able to take outside of the University and utilize.”
Dorcellus has put his skills to work as a tournament co-organizer for the Metro Classic Basketball Showcase, which features elite high school teams, and has done podcasts for UWantGame, a foundation that works with high school student-athletes. This semester, he’s remotely interning with his favorite NBA team, the Brooklyn Nets, assisting their diversity and inclusion department. It’s an opportunity Dorcellus greatly values and sees as a natural extension of his work on campus, serving on the University’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion and leading the MLK student committee as co-chair of the 2021 celebration. “I’ll hold that close to my heart forever,” he says. “It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, but also by far the most gratifying work I’ve ever done and the greatest honor of my academic life.”
While Dorcellus missed the spirit and energy of past MLK gatherings, he emphasizes the virtual events were a welcomed response to the pandemic and created opportunities for others to join in, including his relatives in Haiti. “It was the most accessible that this celebration has ever been because anyone could register and tune in from anywhere around the world,” he says. “In a way, crisis creates clarity, and realizing that we were able to bring something special to so many people is a wonderful feeling.”
Determination and Persistence
Dorcellus is well versed in overcoming the challenges of a crisis. As a freshman at Union Catholic High School in New Jersey, his participation in sports —especially soccer and basketball—was abruptly interrupted. He began experiencing headaches that gradually became more severe and frequent. Ultimately, an MRI revealed the cause as a birth condition known as chiari malformation and he underwent emergency brain surgery. The recovery was slow and grueling. His memory was cloudy, his balance off, his speech affected. But with determination and persistence, he endured years of therapy, basically relearning how to walk and talk. “I wanted to be me again, essentially. I still say the closest I’ve been to 100% is today,” he says. “I’m proud of the recovery.”
Amid the uncertainty and upheaval, Dorcellus was presented with an opportunity that would give him focus and change his personal trajectory. In his sophomore year, he accepted a role with the school’s Livestream program, which broadcast home athletic events. For the next three years, he was the lead broadcaster for basketball games—and made a valuable discovery. “I realized, ‘Wow, I’m getting this same sort of euphoric feeling from calling these games and working and being around sports as I do from playing,” says Dorcellus, who returned to the soccer pitch as a senior and captained the team. “In rediscovering that new iteration of me, I found a passion and that passion led me to finding a university.”
A Path to Success
While Dorcellus is unsure whether he’ll pursue work in broadcast journalism, he is certain that his storytelling skills will be beneficial. “No matter what I will end up doing, I know that being able to tell a good story is helpful,” he says.
Thanks to his social media savvy, he’s carved his own enterprising career route. He uses his Instagram account to highlight accomplishments and reach out to sports executives, a strategy that helped him land his Nets’ internship. As a media freelancer, he covered NFL star Odell Beckham Jr.’s youth football camp in 2018 and photographed Beckham with his distinct hairstyle surrounded by campers sporting the Beckham look. He posted the image on Twitter and it went viral, picked up by ESPN, NBC Sports and others. “That was the first time I had really stepped into the professional foray of sports,” he says. Since then, he’s assisted at youth camps hosted by Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, working as a liaison between the athletes, campers, families and sponsors.
For Dorcellus, it’s all a matter of seizing the day. Throughout his time at Syracuse, he says he’s been thankful for the opportunities he’s had on campus as well as ones that materialized through his association with the University. He is extremely grateful to numerous mentors who have taken the time to guide him along the way. In turn, he wants to make them proud of him and pay it forward by helping others. “The most special thing about Syracuse to me is the people,” he says. “There are a lot of unique and genuine people that have helped me. They just foster a lot of positivity. And that has helped me to continue to work and achieve and hopefully have that impact on other people someday. I want to be able to do good things that put good into as many other people as possible.”