NCAA 2017 Division II Award of Excellence Finalist

December 22, 2016

Entries were submitted from across the country, but now the results are in.

On Dec. 21, the NCAA announced Lees-McRae’s ‘Lunch Buddy Program’ as the Conference Carolinas representative and finalist for the 2017 Division II Award of Excellence.

“Each year, Division II selects one finalist from each conference . . . to be recognized for events that exemplify any of the six Division II attributes: learning, balance, resourcefulness, sportsmanship, passion and service,” according to a Conference Carolinas release.

The award as finalist also came with a $500 prize, which is expected to be used on future community engagement initiatives.

Starting in the 2016 fall semester, members of the men’s basketball team met and ate lunch with students once a week from Banner Elk Elementary School.

The concept sprouted between Banner Elk Elementary Principal Tracey Grit and Lees-McRae Vice President of Athletics and Club Sports Craig McPhail.

The weekly lunches quickly turned into precious time between the two groups. For the students at Banner Elk Elementary, it was empowering, and for the athletes, it was a way to give back to future generations.

Of the 24 finalists, 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, according to a NCAA release.

For McPhail, who has spent a great amount of time in the community, winning a finalist position is a dream.

“Our young men see the difference they are making in lives of these young people by spending time with them,” he said.  “The children look forward to talking with the athletes and attending their games. Not only that, but the teachers have seen the uplifted spirits by the interaction. It’s a complete win for everyone.”

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