Wingate wins NCAA Community Engagement Award

Indianapolis, Ind.----Wingate University was awarded the NCAA Division II Community Engagement Award of Excellence this summer, recognizing its long-running Union County Special Olympics Swimming venue. The Community Engagement Award of Excellence recognizes Division II institutions who successfully “build bridges” with the communities where they are located. The commitment to help member institutions build stronger civic relationships is a central part of the NCAA Division II philosophy.

The Special Olympics Swimming venue at Wingate is hosted by the Bulldog swimming teams. The program has now been recognized on three separate occasions. The program was recognized by the NCAA when it was first started by Wingate graduate Christy Cousins Bostic. In addition, the Union County Special Olympics presented the Wingate women’s swimming team with its Civic Group of the Year Award in the spring of 2005.

“We started the program…due to the vision of the swimmers that were originally brought to Wingate,” Bulldog head men’s and women’s swimming coach Kirk Sanocki says. “Swimming is near and dear to their hearts…they feel blessed they could reach the level to participate in intercollegiate athletics. They were always looking for a way to give back…the way that they did is through the Special Olympics program.”

Sanocki believes the NCAA recognition is icing on the cake. “As far as winning an award, when you get involved in a service project like this, you’re never getting involved for the reward,” Sanocki says. “The reward comes as a result of the service.”

Sanocki credits the success of the program to consistency. “We tell our recruits this is our project,” Sanocki says. “I give much credit to Christy for her efforts…she made sure everyone bought into this project from the very beginning. By including Special Olympics in our recruiting process, we’ve been able to maintain consistency with what we’re doing.” “I believe the Special Olympics program offered at Wingate was very well planned and executed,”

Wingate rising senior Santino Viselli says. “The program offered many different skill levels…each one able to keep a smile on every participant’s face.” “The Special Olympics athletes were paired with various Bulldog swim team members for four weeks,” Viselli says. “Every one of the Wingate swimmers was excited to participate. Our student leaders, Kelsey Trabue and Nicole Moody, motivated us to push the participants to new heights. I enjoyed the program the most because of the feeling I was able to achieve after working with the Special Olympics athletes. I could only leave the pool with a smile on my face.”

WINGATE UNIVERSITY Founded in 1896, Wingate University is a comprehensive university with more than 2,300 students on three campuses in Wingate, Matthews and Hendersonville, N.C. The university offers 32 undergraduate majors, 36 minors and career concentrations, numerous pre-professional programs, graduate degrees in business, accounting, physician assistant studies and sports administration and doctorates in pharmacy and education. Wingate students gain the tools and support they need to excel in academics and apply that learning toward an extraordinary career and life. The campus community offers in-class learning, out-of-class experiences, strong mentors, a competitive yet caring environment and rewarding community service opportunities for a complete educational experience.

Bulldog student-athletes compete in 19 NCAA Division II sports. Wingate University has won the South Atlantic Conference Echols Athletic Excellence Award for the past five years. Wingate University is ranked number three among NCAA Division II Academic All-America® producing schools in the 2000’s with 39 honorees during this millennium. Only Pittsburg State (Kan.) University and Truman State (Mo.) University have produced more Academic All-America® honorees during this time period. Wingate’s 48 Academic All-America® honorees (lifetime) is tops among all SAC schools.

(Wingate University student intern Robert Cook wrote this article. A rising senior from Bradford, England, Cook is majoring in Sport Management with a minor in Marketing.)

NCAA Division II Community Engagement Award of Excellence 2011 Conference winners: Arkansas Tech (Gulf South Conference): Project Feed Arkansas. Chowan (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Girls and Women in Sports Day. Colorado Christian (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference): Extreme Community Makeover. Cal San Diego (California Collegiate Athletic Association): UCSD Blood Drive. East Coast Conference: Fitness Challenge. Fairmont State University (West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): Put Your Best Fairmont Forward. Franklin Pierce (Northeast-10 Conference): Community Halloween. Holy Family (Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference): Build a Library with… Limestone (Conference Carolinas): Playground build. Newman (Heartland Conference): Division II Game of the Week. Nova Southeastern (Sunshine State Conference): Miracle League Program. Pittsburg State (Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association): Ladies Night at the Pitt. Saginaw Valley State (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference): GLIAC Pink Wave. Shippensburg (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference): MentorSHIP Program – Kids Night Out. Southwest Minnesota State (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference): SMSU Family Day/Smokefest. Texas A&M-Kingsville (Lone Star Conference): Living the Dream Relay. Wingate (South Atlantic Conference): Union County Special Olympics Swimming venue.