On Monday, Feb. 12, the Scholar-Athlete Recognition Awards was held at the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center. This was the 29th annual ceremony, which celebrates student-athletes who have earned a 3.0 or better in their previous semesters or have maintained their GPAs throughout their college career.
Each athlete being recognized was awarded a medallion of a specific color. Each color represents the number of years that this student-athlete has earned the award. Along with this, the “Rising Stars” were presented as well. These are given to first-year students who have earned the 3.0 GPA during their first semester at UMaine.
This year, there were a total of 268 student-athletes being recognized, consisting of 190 scholar-athletes and 78 Rising Stars, which make up over half of the number of student-athletes at UMaine. A total of 3,975 awards have been given since 1989.
The ceremony began with a welcome from Ann Maxim, the director of academic support services for student athletes.
“We thank our sponsors for helping with this event,” she said. “To our coaches: thank you for recruiting and caring for these amazing young people who represent our state and have the privilege of wearing the University of Maine uniform. And to our athletes, we not only want to recognize you for your academic achievements over the last year, but we want to recognize the untapped potential that you carry within you. We are inspired by you, we live vicariously through you, we are proud of you. You wear the colors of Maine, you are us, you are what many children aspire to be, and we want you to be successful, because when you are, we all are.”
Several times throughout the ceremony, coaches, athletic directors and deans mentioned the fact that every year the GPA continues to rise and more students are given this achievement.
Another speaker at the event was Aaron Izaryk, a proud UMaine alumnus. Izaryk is the athletic director and head baseball coach at Bridgton Academy as well as the general manager for the Sanford Mainers.
“Congratulations to the student athletes and coaches in attendance. This achievement is something that many strive for and not many can achieve. The support of the academic program and the emphasis on academic success is evident,” Izaryk began. “Your ability to set goals for yourselves and your teams is something that will translate to the workplace. Your drive to never settle and achieve better will follow you no matter where you go.”
Among the many students who earned their awards was Kendra Ridley, a nursing student and soccer player at UMaine. Ridley is a Canada native who came to UMaine because it had a great Division I sports program and a strong nursing program as well as a close-knit community for students. Ridley plans to work as a registered nurse in a pediatric setting and eventually pursue a career as a nurse practitioner.
“I started playing soccer when I was three,” Ridley said, “and the most enjoyable thing about playing my sport is being able to enjoy it with a group of amazing people. My teammates are what make the early morning practices and lifts so fun, and they never fail to bring a smile to my face.”
Among the many academic achievements that Ridley has earned throughout her career at UMaine is the Dean Smith “M” Club Award, which is awarded to the top male and female scholar-athlete each year. This is the most prestigious award presented to student-athletes at UMaine. To receive this award, athletes are nominated by their coaches, who have witnessed these athletes demonstrate excellent academic, athletic and character achievements and are an excellent contributor and leader within their community.
“I try to manage playing soccer and my academics by creating a schedule for the month in order to plan accordingly. I also try to study and get my work done on the bus during our travel trips so that it helps me save time when we arrive at the hotel that we’re staying at. My teammates and nursing peers are the biggest motivators for me to succeed academically. Our team is highly school-oriented and strives to succeed in the classroom and on the field. My peers are also hard working and driven, which helps motivate me as well,” Ridley added.
After the awards were presented, the ceremony came to a close and team photos were taken.