HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- The Georgia Southwestern State University Athletic Department received three of the six institution awards presented Tuesday evening by the Peach Belt Conference at the league's annual awards dinner. Georgia Southwestern earned the Presidents' Academic Award, the SunTrust Foundation Connecting Communities Award and the LeeAnn Noble Make-A-Wish Most Improved Award.
Presidents' Academic Award
Georgia Southwestern was presented with its second Peach Belt Conference Presidents' Academic Award in school history, the first coming after the 2007-08 season. The Presidents' Academic Award is the highest award a conference member can receive not related to competitive success. It is awarded to the institution that has the largest separation between student athlete GPA and the overall student population GPA.
At the end of the academic school year the Peach Belt asked each of the league's 12 members to submit an average GPA for the undergraduate student body and a GPA for all student-athletes. These two numbers were used to determine each institution's GPA ratio that identifies which school's athletes are performing most ahead of the curve in comparison to the student body. The schools are not measured against one another, just their athletes to their students.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke was lauded with the honor on Tuesday evening as well, marking the first time in the 12-year history of the award that there has been a tie in the final calculation. Both GSW and UNCP had a 1.1007 ratio to lead the conference.
SunTrust Foundation Connecting Communities Award
Georgia Southwestern was awarded the 2018 SunTrust Foundation Connecting Communities Award for its 'Meet the Canes' initiative, which cultivated the connection between the youth of Americus, Ga., and the university. The honor is the second for Georgia Southwestern, which also won in 2015. This is the seventh year of the award program.
'Meet the Canes' was a free, open basketball clinic for boys and girls from the first to the eighth grades. The event was designed to allow community youth to interact with collegiate coaches and players. Economic hardships in the Americus community prevent many children from attending summer basketball camps or games, so 'Meet the Canes' was designed at no cost to the children attending, many of whom were setting foot on a college campus for the first time.
With the collaboration of men's basketball coach Ben Hicks and women's coach Kelly Britsky, the event was held on a Saturday in the Storm Dome, GSW's home court. Nearly 50 area children attended and were treated to a series of fundamental stations, played games and even had to use some math skills with GSW men's and women's players.
The event was the first and GSW hopes to see the event grow every year.
The SunTrust Foundation Connecting Communities award is designed to recognize efforts undertaken by PBC member institutions to reach out and be a partner with their local and regional communities. The award provides a cash prize to be given to the winning schools' Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
LeeAnn Noble Make-A-Wish Most Improved Award
Georgia Southwestern earned the LeeAnn Noble Make-A-Wish Most Improved Award. GSW was the only Peach Belt Conference school to more than double their giving from the previous year and earned the Most Improved Award for the first time. GSW contributed over $2,400 to the campaign, the fifth-highest amount in the conference.
Overall, Peach Belt schools raised $52,406 during the 2017-18 year. Last year, the PBC had the third-highest total among NCAA Division II conferences in the nation.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. The NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which is the primary student-based group that contributes to policy-making for the division, established the Make-A-Wish partnership in 2003 and has since become one of the foundation's largest and most consistent contributors.
Division II has raised more than $5.3 million toward granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. More than 660 "wishes" have been granted through Division II contributions. These wishes can serve as a game changer in children's fights against their illnesses, helping them feel better, and in some cases even get better.
The PBC Make-A-Wish awards were renamed the LeeAnn Noble Make-A-Wish Awards following the 2013-14 season. Noble was a women's golfer at the University of North Georgia and former wish recipient from Make-A-Wish. She appeared on the cover of NCAA Champion Magazine in the fall of 2013 and sadly passed away in March of 2014. Her dedication to the Make-A-Wish program will live on with these awards that will forever bear her name.