Leighton Anderson started playing soccer when she was 4 years old, when her parents noticed she had a lot of extra energy that needed an outlet. She’s grateful they pushed her into the sport — it’s been her relief on stressful days and an added bonus to good ones.
“Even though I have to balance my course work with the sport, it’s as though soccer helps me become a better student,” she said. “The traits that I have acquired through the sport have also helped me succeed in the classroom — leadership, teamwork, time management, and overall health. Soccer keeps my head clear and focused.”
As captain of the women’s soccer team at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, Leighton is one of about 60,000 student-athletes served each year by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). She’s also a Phi Theta Kappa member.
Students like Leighton have inspired Phi Theta Kappa to team up with the NJCAA to recognize students who are excelling both on and off the field. Under a new partnership, PTK members who are also college athletes can now purchase a special edition NJCAA™ Honors Stole for graduation. The stole features both the PTK emblem and the NJCAA seal.
“So many of our college student-athletes are stars both inside and outside the classroom,” said PTK President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner. “We are so honored to recognize their academic achievements and also their tireless dedication to their sport, team, and community.”
The NJCAA was founded in 1938 and is the nation’s premier governing body for two-year collegiate athletics. It has more than 500 member schools in 42 states.
The organization doesn’t just focus on sports; it also recognizes entire teams and individuals that achieve a 3.6 GPA or higher each year with academic awards. And, it names three Student-Athletes of the Year each July.
NJCAA President and CEO Dr. Christopher Parker said the new partnership will allow the association to maintain a focus on and commitment to the academic success of its student-athletes.
“Student-athletes have to manage time carefully to be the best they can in the classroom and on the field, thus highlighting all avenues of success, especially in the classroom, are just as significant to each individual student-athlete,” he said. “Partnering with PTK will continue to show students the value of an organization like PTK and how sports and academics together can be so rewarding.”
Student-athletes face many challenges — trying to squeeze homework around practice, games, and traveling can be a burden. Factor in that many student-athletes also work or have other obligations, and it’s remarkable what they achieve.
“Maintaining a high GPA is challenging enough as it is, but being an honors student and college athlete puts an even greater workload to any day,” Leighton said. “I have to stay focused on the outcome through it all. Some days are more strenuous than others, but when I think of the individual growth I am obtaining through it all, the challenges are worth it.”
Leighton joined Phi Theta Kappa for the scholarship opportunities, but it’s turned into another successful team she can be part of. And come graduation, she won’t have to settle for only being recognized for some of her accomplishments at Hinds.
“I love the fact that not only am I being recognized as a part of PTK honor society, but a PTK member who is also committed to an athletic team,” she said. “Juggling the two may seem impossible to others, but being able to wear regalia at graduation shows others that I accepted the challenge and succeeded.
“I believe it reveals to others the kind of determined student-athlete I am.”
Order your NJCAA™ Honors Stole today!