student athletes

Student Athletes Make the Grade

By Rebecca L. Weber

At one community college in Waco, Texas, athletes continue to excel on the field and in the classroom. Here’s how they get the support they need.

Student athletes at McLennan Community College (MCC), in Waco, Texas, regularly earn National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Academic Team honors. On nine occasions, MCC’s teams have won the NJCAA Academic Team of the Year, a distinction reserved for the team with the highest GPA in the sport. Women’s and men’s golf have been have been the standouts, with further team championships for women’s and men’s tennis and men’s baseball.

NJCAA doesn’t include dance team awards, but MCC has also won three American Dance/Drill Team (ADTS) Academic Championships.

MCC is a commuter campus, without dorms full of students who can roll out of bed to attend home games and cheer for the Highlanders. Special community events boost attendance, such as a Halloween basketball game with free admission to the public. Still, MCC’s teams are highly competitive on their respective fields, courses and dance floors. Sports Information Specialist Candice Kelm says basketball, baseball and softball draw significant crowds.

Earlier this year, MCC’s men’s baseball team competed in the Junior College Baseball World Series, placing second in the nation. And the dance team has won five National Dance Alliance Championships and 16 ADTS Championships.

Clarifying priorities

For most student athletes, academics and employment opportunities drive the decision to study at MCC. Upon completion, MCC graduates often seek employment as nurses or medical technicians in the nearby hospitals, where students are trained.

“Athletes who excel in the classroom — that’s a major priority,” Kelm says. “The majority are not going to go pro in their sport. They need that academic success to fall back on.”

Working together with student athletes

A culture of academic excellence motivates students to push themselves. This spring, MCC had a record number of graduates with a perfect 4.0 grade point average among the general student body.

On-campus initiatives for all students include tutoring and a completion center. Athletes find support not just from their coaches but also from their professors and other staff, Kelm says. “Here we all work together to be successful.”

Coaches perform grade checks with professors every two weeks, and they do attendance checks in the classroom.

“Students who transfer from other schools find McLennan is different because it’s a family,” Kelm says. “A lot of people know we have a strong athletic background. When they get their degree and transfer on, they’re going to have a strong foundation to build on.”

Do students on your college campus take great pride in extracurricular activities? Tell us how it influences their academic performance in the Comments below.

Rebecca L. Weber

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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