Student breathes green and gold and inspires Mason Nation

Sometimes the most recognizable person at a basketball game is not a player or a coach but rather a fan in the crowd. This person isn’t just any fan; he or she is at every game. They cheer on the team whether they’re winning or losing, and they always sit in the same seat.

The New York Knicks have Spike Lee. The Los Angeles Lakers have Jack Nicholson.

And the George Mason University Patriots have Trevor Scambos.

Trevor Scambos can be seen at every home men's basketball team cheering on the players (photo by John Irwin).

“It’s in my heart, it’s in my blood,” said Scambos as he talked about why he loves Mason basketball.

Scambos, a junior and member of the Mason Learning into Future Environments (LIFE) program, is a well-known face in a sea of 32,000 Patriots, primarily because he has a way of making himself known.

“He always went out of his way to say hello,” said former President Alan Merten.

“[He] doesn’t pass up an opportunity to wish someone well.”

Scambos worked in the president’s office when Merten was president and Merten remembers enjoying having such a warm presence in the office.

“He would make my day a little better,” said Merten.

Perhaps one reason for Scambos’s contagious happiness is a condition he has called Williams Syndrome (WS), which is often characterized by major lows represented in isolation and major highs in social settings. Scambos seems to be a benefactor of the later.

Trevor Scambos sits in his regular seat in the Patriot Center (photo by John Irwin).

A Unique Program: Mason LIFE

According to Mason LIFE, WS is “characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities” and is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people are affected by the condition in the United States.

While the effects of the condition can be difficult, children with WS tend to be social, friendly and endearing, and, according to information provided by Mason LIFE, “parents often say the joy and perspective a child with WS brings into their lives had been unimaginable.”

There is no question that Scambos is bringing joy to people around him.

“I can’t really tell you…when that hit that everyone knew him and everyone loved him and I think it probably started freshman year when he was here and he has just built it up nice,” said Andrew Hahn, the employment coordinator for Mason LIFE who has known Scambos for three years. “He’s just a good, positive presence on the campus and in our Mason LIFE community and in the Mason community as a whole.”

Mason LIFE began as a pilot program in 2002 with three students and has since has grown to serve 50 students who come from eight states and two countries.

The goal of Mason LIFE is to “provide young adults, whose disabilities have traditionally excluded them from higher education, with an inclusive university experience that will further their academic skills, prepare them for employment, and encourage independent living in their communities,” according to the information provided by Mason LIFE.

Trevor Scambos is a junior in the Mason LIFE program and spent time working in former President Alan Merten's office (photo by John Irwin).

Mason LIFE students spend time in LIFE classes that include lessons on banking, fitness, math and self-regulation. Scambos said his favorite classes are math and a class on residential housing. While the LIFE program doesn’t give students an official degree, they have the opportunity to take classes directly through the university.

One of the major emphases of the LIFE program is on making sure students get a job when they graduate.

Students spend time interning at a variety of locations on and off campus. Scambos had the opportunity to intern at the capitol with Mississippi Congressman Gregg Harper. The Capitol Hill internship program with Mason LIFE began in 2009.

As a part of the internship, Scambos did a variety of tasks including working for the flag office and stamping passes. He described the internship as a great experience.

According to Hahn, the alumni from Mason LIFE have a 75 percent success rate in getting a job after graduation.

Recognition comes in many forms

Scambos is from Katonah, New York and after one look at his resume it’s easy to see that Scambos’s enthusiasm for athletics didn’t just begin in college.

Scambos was given the Athletic Spirit Award, the Gatorade Player of the Year Spirit Award for Track and Field, the Varsity Hockey Manager and Leadership award and numerous other forms of recognition from John Jay High School where he went to school before coming to Mason.

Scambos was recently honored with a piece of recognition that didn’t come on a plaque and wasn’t a certificate but instead was a group of people singing "Happy Birthday” to him.

At the end of men’s basketball Coach Paul Hewitt’s motivational speech at Mason Madness last October; Hewitt had one final thing to tell the crowd before he concluded his presentation.

“I need you to help me with one last thing, one of our biggest fans, my man Trevor…It’s Trevor’s birthday Wednesday, so we have to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’” The countdown to the song began, and the crowd of thousands began singing to Scambos as he smiled and cheered with those around him.

Once the singing stopped, Scambos took to the microphone and delivered a message that he wanted to get across.

“Are you guys having a good time so far? Today I woke up this morning, I thought something in my head, I said today was MASON MADNESS!”

Chants of “Trevor” began and with his trademark three-finger wave and cheer he left the court to watch the rest of the event.

Trevor Scambos flashes his trademark three-finger wave at a recent Mason men's basketball game (photo by John Irwin).

“It’s Not an Act”

Merten remembers when he used to run into Scambos on campus and they would swap basketball stories. In fact, while Merten was known to be at every men’s basketball game when he was president, shooting off the t-shirt gun during timeouts, he admits that he was only the second biggest fan.

Merten gave the honor of biggest fan to Scambos.

“It’s not an act. You can see the fire and the passion in his eyes when he talks about [basketball],” said Andrew Hahn.

Scambos’s seat is always in the same spot, two rows up on the most inner seat in the student section. While there is no nameplate, students know that seat as Trevor’s and know to not even try sitting there.

The Next Chapter

Scambos doesn’t just like watching basketball, he likes participating.

“I love playing the game…I love stealing the ball,” said Scambos. He described dunks as being the “sickest moments” of the game.

Scambos competes in the Special Olympics basketball league with teammates from the Mason LIFE program. The team members wear the same uniform that says “George Mason.”

Scambos has no doubts about what he wants to do when he graduates from Mason next year. He wants to travel with the men’s basketball team on the road and work for them.

“I’m a little brother to the team,” said Scambos.

Scambos may think of himself as a little brother to the team, but to anyone who knows or recognizes him, he is more than that.

“He motivates us here at Mason to be better…At least myself, Trevor is the kind of guy who takes everyday as a blessing,” said Hahn. “He’s an inspiration to me and to us.”   

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