GSW Athletics leads the nation in community service

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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By Keith Michlig


Georgia Southwestern State University led all NCAA Division II institutions in documented community service hours generated during the 2023-24 academic year according to the NCAA TeamWorks competition reported by Helper Helper. It’s the second time in four years the Hurricanes have finished atop the national standings.

Georgia Southwestern had eight of its 10 programs finish in the Top 10 of the rankings for their respective sports. GSW led all women’s cross country and track programs in D-II. The GSW women’s soccer program ranked third, women’s tennis ranked fourth, softball ranked fourth, men’s basketball finished third, men’s soccer ranked third, men’s golf was fifth and men’s cross country finished 10th. With only 10 sports programs and without the benefit of a large roster, such as football, the Hurricanes continued their commitment to elite service throughout the department.

Volunteer opportunities included multiple events with Special Olympics Georgia, Operation Christmas Child Pack-a-Shoebox, Salvation Army bell ringing, assisting with local canned food drives, a partnership with Magnolia Manor Senior Living, reading in local schools, being part of a home building project with The Fuller Center for Housing, managing setup and activities at the annual Cowpoke event by the Americus Junior Service League, gardening at the Phoebe Healthy Garden project offered by Phoebe Sumter Medical Center and participating in the local Night to Shine in conjunction with the Tim Tebow Foundation.

In addition, GSW Athletics introduced a comprehensive wellness initiative called Category 5 in the fall of 2023 that reached well beyond the campus community. The Category 5 served 4,821 local and regional students, in addition to the 175 GSW student-athletes. Activities hosted by GSW included a Career Networking Night for junior/senior student-athletes to learn from business professionals, a presentation and discussion entitled Dynamics of Addiction: Vaping and Social Media, as well as a seminar on mental performance provided by Zach Sorensen, Mental Performance Coach for the Atlanta Braves.

“The introduction and implementation of our Category 5 Comprehensive Student Athlete Wellness Program has provided opportunities for us to achieve unprecedented success in our three strategic priorities,” Georgia Southwestern Director of Athletics Mike Leeder said.

GSW has achieved record success beyond its commitment to community service and engagement that includes all three of the department’s strategic priorities: the classroom, community and competitive success. In the classroom, the Hurricanes placed a school-record 111 student-athletes on the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Honor Roll in 2023-24 and captured their record-setting fourth Peach Belt President’s Cup, the highest academic award presented by the league office. GSW student-athletes have achieved a grade point average above 3.0 for 20 consecutive semesters and in the fall of 2023, the Hurricanes recorded the university’s highest cumulative student-athlete GPA on record with a 3.32.

Community engagement went well beyond volunteering as the Hurricanes were recognized by the Peach Belt for their charitable efforts in 2023-24 and presented with the LeeAnn Noble Make-A-Wish Most Improved school award with a 107 percent increase in funds raised compared to the 2022-23 school year. The annual Teddy Bear Toss event at a GSW basketball game generated over 2,000 plush toys for Phoebe Putney Health System’s Women’s and Children’s Health Services program.

Competitively, 2023-24 saw a continued upward trajectory of Hurricane Athletics as the women’s basketball team advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history and multiple teams produced record win totals, including women’s basketball, baseball and women’s soccer. The men’s golf program made its fifth straight NCAA Super Regional appearance and extended it streak to 40 consecutive appearances in the Golf Coaches Association of America Top 25 coaches poll. The baseball team produced the PBC Pitcher of the Year for the fifth straight season. Hana Haden was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division II Coach of the Year as the Lady Hurricanes captured their second consecutive Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament championships.

Leading the way for NCAA Division II, Georgia Southwestern was part of the NCAA TeamWorks competition that generated over 572,266 hours of service from 52,687 student-athletes in 17,118 volunteer opportunities. The Helper Helper program was implemented by NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III institutions and had an economic impact of $18.2 million in 2023-24.