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Virginia State wins 2020 DII Award of Excellence

School recognized for shoe distribution at elementary school

Virginia State was presented Saturday with the 2020 Division II Award of Excellence.
Virginia State was presented Saturday with the 2020 Division II Award of Excellence.

Virginia State student-athletes know that a fresh pair of shoes and socks can go a long way in helping a child put his or her best foot forward.

Led by the Virginia State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Trojan athletics community partnered last spring with Samaritan’s Feet International to provide 300 new pairs of athletic shoes and socks to students at Cool Spring Elementary in Petersburg, Virginia. Student-athletes, athletics administrators and representatives from the campus community spent the morning of April 30 at the local elementary school washing children’s feet and adorning them with shiny new sneakers. Virginia State President Makola Abdullah and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams also participated in the event.

Because of the efforts, Virginia State was presented Saturday with the 2020 Division II Award of Excellence. Each year, the national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee selects the award winners based on events over the past year that exemplify the Division II philosophy, community engagement and student-athlete leadership.

The idea for Virginia State’s community engagement event emerged after the Trojans’ SAAC president and vice president volunteered at a Samaritan’s Feet shoe distribution hosted in partnership with the CIAA in Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier in 2019. The student-athletes decided they wanted to partner with the nonprofit to host a shoe distribution in their own community and began fundraising. Since its founding in 2003, Samaritan’s Feet and its partners have distributed more than 7 million pairs of shoes around the world.

“Virginia State University athletics is honored to receive such a prestigious award from NCAA Division II,” said Peggy Davis, Virginia State associate vice president for intercollegiate athletics. “It is through the support of our university president, Dr. Makola M. Abdullah, that our student-athletes and staff can uphold the mission of our university and embrace community outreach. Working with Samaritan’s Feet has truly allowed us to display our genuine partnership with the Petersburg school system. This partnership has provided our student-athletes an opportunity to engage with the students of Cool Spring Elementary as positive role models.”

The school will receive $3,000 for the award to use toward future community engagement efforts.

Holy Names received the runner-up prize of $1,500 for HawkMania, a wrestling event hosted by the athletics department that raised $10,000 for Make-A-Wish.

The third-place prize of $1,250 went to Mercyhurst, which held a fundraiser in honor of longtime men’s ice hockey equipment manager Mike Folga, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

See the full list of 2020 Award of Excellence finalists here.