NSU SAAC Named DII Award of Excellence Finalist

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – NCAA Division II announced its 22 finalists for the 2023 Division II Award of Excellence, an accolade recognizing initiatives in the past year that exemplify the Division II philosophy, community engagement and student-athlete leadership. Nova Southeastern was chosen as a finalist after nominating the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee pen pal program with a local elementary school.  

The purpose NSU SAAC Pen Pal Program is to build a sense of unity between the Nova Southeastern student-athletes and the elementary students, and the purpose of the Pen Pal program is to write letters back-and-forth each month to help the elementary students enhance their literacy skills. The elementary school we partnered with is categorized under the Florida Department of Education as Title I meaning low-income families make up at least 40 percent of the enrollment. Title I is the largest federal program supporting elementary and secondary education and is entirely funded by the federal government under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Title I provides additional resources to schools with economically disadvantaged students in order to raise their ability to succeed. 

Through SAAC’s leadership, 75 student-athletes have committed to serving as leaders and giving back to the community by participating in the Pen Pal Program. This is the first full academic year of impact, and the level of involvement and engagement has tremendously increased. The Pen Pal Program continues to impact the local community by allowing elementary school students to practice their written literacy skills while also building a sense of unity. 

A committee of athletics administrators determined this year’s finalists, and the national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee selected the top three finalists, who will be announced at the Division II business session Jan. 14 at the 2023 NCAA Convention in San Antonio. 

Each finalist will receive $500. In addition, the winner will receive $2,500, the first runner-up will receive $1,250 and the second runner-up will receive $1,000. All prize money is intended to be used for future SAAC initiatives or community engagement events. 

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NSU SAAC Donates School Supplies to Davie Elementary

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Nova Southeastern Athletics, in partnership with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), has continued its proud tradition of serving as stewards of the community by hosting a school supply drive for Davie Elementary School. At the 2022-23 Welcome Back event for NSU student-athletes, all 16 of the Sharks athletic teams donated school supplies to be donated to Mr. Turk’s third grade class. The SAAC representatives also spent time interacting and encouraging the elementary students.  

Dr. Deanna Rivero, the Manager of Athletic Academic Services at Nova Southeastern, spearheaded the effort and leads the Nova Southeastern SAAC. “As the advisor of SAAC, it always makes me proud when our student-athletes, coaches and staff give back to the local community. The annual Davie Elementary School Supply Drive was a tremendous success due to the culture of developing relationships and building a sense of unity among the student-athletes, the NSU community, and surrounding communities,” said Dr. Rivero. “Being able to hand deliver the supplies and see the smiles of the kids receiving the donations makes it all worthwhile. I am so thankful to the people who prioritize giving back to the community.” 

In total, Nova Southeastern SAAC collected over 600 different supplies for Davie Elementary School, including notebooks, crayons, pencils, markers, pens, glue, rulers, erasers and folders. 

NSU Student-Athletes and SAAC representatives also shared their thoughts on the experience 

Michael Steckmest – Men’s Soccer 

“I’m happy that I had the opportunity to see who we’re providing the school supplies to. The interaction and overall excitement from the kids was inspiring. Experiences like these motivate and give purpose to the platform we have as student-athletes and representatives of Nova Southeastern.” 

Alexis Smith – Softball 

“I had an amazing time getting to meet the kids, especially at their younger ages. I loved encouraging them to get into sports while they’re young and find what their passion.” 

Alex Mangold – Men’s Basketball 

“Giving back to the kids in the community was great. The looks on their faces when we walked in with the supplies that we collected was priceless. I hope we can continue growing this tradition and partnership to continue for years to come.” 

Ellen Ramstedt – Women’s Golf 

“Dropping off the school supplies at Davie Elementary School was a fun experience, it was nice to meet the children and see how happy they were to interact with us and see the donations. They were all so sweet and it was a great opportunity to give back.” 

Paul Boos – Men’s Soccer  

“It was an amazing opportunity to go and meet the elementary school students, because I can remember being in their shoes dreaming of being a collegiate athlete one day. Now achieving my dreams, I find it a blessing to give back and inspire the next generation.” 

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