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Division II announces 2017 Award of Excellence finalists

24 schools, 1 conference honored for campus, community engagement events

Twenty-four schools and one conference have been named finalists for the 2017 Division II Award of Excellence, an accolade recognizing positive campus and community engagement events hosted during the past year.

Each year, Division II selects one finalist from each conference and one independent representative to be recognized for events that exemplify any of the six Division II attributes: learning, balance, resourcefulness, sportsmanship, passion and service. Each finalist will receive $500.

This year’s finalists hosted events that honored members of the military, benefited local youth, assisted people with disabilities, raised money for positive causes and more.

Two runner-up recipients and one overall winner will be announced during the Division II Business Session at the 2017 NCAA Convention on Jan. 21 in Nashville, Tennessee. The winner will receive $1,500 and a nationally televised football or basketball game during the 2017-18 season. The first runner-up will receive $1,250, and the second runner-up will receive $1,000. All prize money is expected to be used on future community engagement initiatives.

The following are the 2017 finalists, alphabetized by conference:

School: California State University, Stanislaus

Conference: California Collegiate Athletic Association

Event: Heart of a Warrior. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee paired a series of anti-bullying assemblies at local elementary schools with a character-based award called the “Heart of a Warrior.”

School: Wilmington University (Delaware)

Conference: Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference

Event: Military Appreciation Day. The event was held during a baseball/softball doubleheader.

School: Winston-Salem State University

Conference: Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Event: She’s Got It Covered Classy Hat Affair. A celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day and a fundraiser for scholarships in women’s sports at Winston-Salem State.

School: Lees-McRae College

Conference: Conference Carolinas

Event: Lunch Buddy Program. Members of the men’s basketball team ate lunch once a week with local elementary students.

School: Roberts Wesleyan College

Conference: East Coast Conference

Event: The Game. A collaborative performance featuring the men’s and women’s basketball teams performing choreography to a score performed by the wind ensemble.

School: Arkansas Tech University

Conference: Great American Conference

Event: Paint the Town Green and Gold. A collaborative effort between the school and the community to increase attendance at games. Local businesses decorated their interiors and exteriors to show pride and support for Arkansas Tech.

School: Walsh University

Conference: Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Event: Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Student-athletes used the holiday to give back to the community.

School: Missouri University of Science and Technology

Conference:  Great Lakes Valley Conference

Event: Joey’s Day Wish Reveal. The athletics department, led by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, raised enough money for Make-A-Wish to host a wish reveal on campus. The wish reveal took place on the basketball court for one local youth battling cancer.

School: Ursuline College

Conference: Great Midwest Athletic Conference

Event: The ARROWS program (Academic Readiness Requires Outstanding Work and Support). A leadership development and mentoring program that provides Ursuline students the opportunity to mentor local high school students and to encourage them to pursue postsecondary education.

School: University of Alaska Fairbanks

Conference: Great Northwest Athletic Conference

Event: Nanook Olympics. An event that brought student-athletes together to try one another’s sports and celebrate the end of the year. It also served as a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish.

School: University of North Alabama

Conference: Gulf South Conference

Event: Connect1. A program designed to encourage face-to-face interaction and build interpersonal relationships among members of the North Alabama community, with a goal of decreasing isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts and actions in the age of social media.

School: Texas A&M International University

Conference: Heartland Conference

Event: Stand Down for Homeless Veterans. Sports teams and local businesses helped homeless veterans discover local services available to them.

School: Palm Beach Atlantic University

Conference: Independent

Event: Speak Out Sailfish (SOS). A campus initiative focusing on education about consent, sexual assault, sexual misconduct and harassment, Title IX policies and procedures, and bystander intervention training.

School: Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Conference: Lone Star Conference

Event: Celanese and American Diabetes Association Senior Night. The school partnered with local corporations to elevate diabetes education. The event included a community walk/run, free diabetes testing during a football tailgate, and video board testimonials and fundraising during the game.

School: Missouri Southern State University

Conference: Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association

Event: Team Up for Prom. A collaboration between the athletics department, local businesses and Easy Living Inc., which provides services to adults with developmental disabilities. The groups partnered to host a fun night for the Easy Living residents.

School: West Virginia State University

Conference: Mountain East Conference

Event: Month of Service. Student-athletes completed more than 500 hours of community service.

School: University of New Haven

Conference: Northeast-10 Conference

Event: Connor’s Wish. More than 25 campus organizations and members of the New Haven community collaborated to create a day around the wish reveal for a local boy.

School: Winona State University

Conference: Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference

Event: Step out of Stigma Week. Student-athletes provided resources and encouragement for community members dealing with a mental illness and started a conversation about stigma and its detrimental effects.

School: Hawaii Pacific University 

Conference: Pacific West Conference

Event: Kam’s Helmets. The Kam’s Helmets program was started in honor of a student-athlete who died in a skateboarding accident. Each year, the Hawaii Pacific athletics department purchases multipurpose helmets with funds raised from basketball game ticket sales and private donations. Helmets are given to any person who wants one at a PacWest basketball game.

School: University of North Georgia

Conference: Peach Belt Conference

Event: Operation Nighthawks of Honor. Each athletics team was assigned a North Georgia graduate or former student killed in action while serving the country. The teams commemorated their service members all season. At the end of the season, memorabilia used to honor the fallen soldier was sold in an online auction, with the proceeds supporting the North Georgia Corps of Cadets Endowment Fund.

School: East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

Conference: Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference

Event: Team IMPACT and East Stroudsburg Baseball. The baseball team hosted a cystic fibrosis awareness and fundraising day in honor of its Team IMPACT teammate.

School: Colorado Mesa University

Conference: Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference

Event: Grand Junction Challenger at 2016 Little League World Series. The school’s baseball team served as “buddies” to members of the Grand Junction Challenger baseball team during their trip to the Little League World Series. Challenger baseball is a division of Little League Baseball for individuals with physical and developmental challenges.

School: Wingate University

Conference: South Atlantic Conference

Event: United Way of Caring. Student-athletes participated in an annual communitywide service project organized by United Way.

Conference: Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Event: Go Green Campus Initiative. The conference worked to create and enhance recycling programs at their member schools.

School: Eckerd College

Conference: Sunshine State Conference

Event: Christmas for Kids. Members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams helped struggling families in the area by providing Christmas gifts for each child and household necessities for the parents.