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TAMUC – Sports

A&M-Commerce recognized as a finalist for Division II Award of Excellence for #MakeItImportant Initiative.

INDIANAPOLIS – The #MakeItImportant initiative organized by the student-athletes at Texas A&M University-Commerce has been named a national finalist for the NCAA Division II Award of Excellence. 

A&M-Commerce is one of 28 schools and one conference named finalists for the 2021 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. They chose one finalist from each of the division’s 23 conferences, with A&M-Commerce recognized as the finalist from the Lone Star Conference. The last time there was a nomination from each happened in 2015. They picked six additional finalists as at-large honorees for submitting a firm nomination that did not receive the finalist for their conference. 

Division II honors its members each year for conducting events that promote student-athletes giving back and serving as leaders within their communities or on their campuses. A committee of athletics administrators determined this year’s finalists. The national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee selects the winner, announced at the Division II business session on January 15 at the virtual 2021 NCAA Convention.

Each finalist will receive $500. The winner will receive an additional $2,500, while the runner-up will receive $1,250, and third place will receive $1,000. All prize money goes for future SAAC initiatives or community engagement events.

ABOUT THE #MAKEITIMPORTANT INITIATIVE – More information at LionAthletics.com/MakeItImportant

In late May and early June of 2020, the George Floyd murder shook the world. This murder highlighted the long-lasting issue of racism and unfair treatment of the Black community. 

It moved the people across the world to action in many forms, with protests against police brutality and racial injustice in nearly every community in America. 

At A&M-Commerce, student-athletes quickly decided that an action plan was needed and implemented that plan ever since with targeted and dedicated efforts. 

Led by the football team’s Leadership Council and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council on campus, the #MakeItImportant campaign highlights six key actions: positive change and influence on our campus. 

Achieve 100% Voter Registration on your team

The Lion Football team had reached 100% voter registration during the 2019 season, and the Make It Important campaign challenged all Lion teams to achieve that goal. 

“We developed the Make It Important initiative to fight back against all the injustices that have been rooted in our community and society. The way we can and should is through our voice, and with our votes,” football student-athlete Nathan Jester said. 

Before the 2020 general election, the Lion Football, Volleyball, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Women’s Golf, Men’s Golf, and Soccer teams all reported 100% of their eligible voters as registered. These teams also organized transportation to voting stations in Hunt County for those noted locally to participate in early voting. 

“It was important that we followed through on our many conversations about the change that needs to happen in our country, and we did that by getting registered and using our right to vote for change,” said volleyball student-athlete Keziah Williams. 

Get involved in local and school elections, and get to know the candidates.

Through the Lion Leadership Academy, a candidate forum was held for Lion student-athletes in a virtual format in July. Texas state senator Royce West (D – Dallas) and Texas state representative Dan Flynn (R – Van) joined almost 200 Lion student-athletes in a session. A&M-Commerce Distinguished Alum and former state senator Ted Lyon moderated the event to share their platform and perspectives and answer questions about issues important to our student-athletes. 

“I thought that hearing from both sides of the political spectrum during the candidate forum was very helpful, especially as a first-time voter,” said men’s golf student-athlete Chance Mulligan. “With the way the two candidates explained things, you could understand how things work on a smaller level and then translate that into a decision that can change the nation. They didn’t just tell us to register to vote, but also that by doing our civic duty, we can truly bring about change and have our voices be heard.”

Continuous Dialogue

Having tough conversations is necessary for change. Individuals should sit down with another person different from them – either by their ethnicity, socio-economic background, belief system, etc. Please get to know each other as people, our story, and help us understand what we all go through in life. 

“I participated in a Black Lives Matter rally and protest, and it changed my thoughts a lot and furthered them,” said softball student-athlete Kinsie Hebler. “I really feel there’s a lot of injustice in the world right now and anything I can do to help people even if I’m not directly affected, it’s important to me that I do my part.” (VIDEO) 

Engage with your campus and local Police Department and have healthy conversations

Police should be our allies, and many are, but having intentional engagement with local law enforcement can mutually break barriers and allow for healthy relationships in the community. 

“It’s been tough to watch the injustice and hate to stir up our country. We decided that we would do our part and be a part of the solution through this initiative. It takes all of us, and I’ve been inspired to see our teams engaging with our University Police Department through ride-along, visits, and meetings,” said football student-athlete Alex Shillow, who is the national chair of the Division II SAAC. 

Respect should be reciprocated and call it out when it’s not.

All people deserve respect, regardless of their looks. Consideration needs to go both ways. We have to hold our friends and family accountable when respect is not upheld. 

In the spirit of respect on campus, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee hosted a Unity March in concert with various student organizations, with an abundance of student-athletes and teams participating. (VIDEO) 

“Our student-athletes developed a very important and exciting initiative that will continue to impact this campus and Lone Star Conference. These are the things we love to see our students do. They are absolutely outstanding and deserve to continue making this initiative an important discussion,” noted Dr. Lavelle Hendricks, Professor of Counseling and DEI Committee member. 

Be ALL Inclusive

We must include and support all people. What truly makes America great are our different cultures. We are a large country with a melting pot of people, and until everyone can feel safe, we are nowhere close to greatness.