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UCM Athletics 'Literacy Team' Named Finalist for 2024 NCAA-II Award of Excellence

By UCM Athletics, January 5, 2024


Members of the University of Central Missouri Athletics "Literacy Team" share a  book with students in the Warrensburg R-VI School District. (Warrensburg
R-VI School District Photo)


The University of Central Missouri Athletics "Literacy Team" has been named one of 25 finalists for the 2024 NCAA Division II Award of Excellence, the NCAA announced Friday, Jan. 5.

The Award of Excellence honors initiatives during the past year that exemplify the Division II philosophy, community engagement and student-athlete leadership. UCM was one of eight finalists to earn an at-large selection for submitting a strong nomination that was not chosen as the finalist for their conference.

The University of Central Missouri "Literacy Team" is in its 32nd year of existence. Founded in 1992 by former UCM Director of Athletics, the late Jerry Hughes, the program is designed to provide interaction between Mules' and Jennies' student-athletes and local youngsters with the focus on reading skills..

The "Literacy Team" of Mules and Jennies student-athletes visited all four Warrensburg elementary schools during the month of October in 2023. At each of the school visits, the student-athletes read newly purchased books to the young students.

This year, a total of 81 new books were purchased for the four Warrensburg elementary schools.

Over the 32-year history of the program, UCM Athletics has been able to purchase over 25,000 new books for the Warrensburg elementary school libraries.

The Literacy program received a national commendation from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) for the support of the school librarian profession and the learners the profession serves during the summer of 2019. It was nominated by Kirsten Shaw, Librarian at Martin Warren Elementary School in Warrensburg.

Funds to purchase the new books are provided through the Eleanor G. Hughes and Carol Dyeta Hughes Literacy Program at the University of Central Missouri, with additional funding provided by many of the UCM Athletic Partners.

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, and the national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee selected the top three finalists, who will be announced at the Division II business session on Jan. 13 at the 2024 NCAA Convention in Phoenix.

Each finalist will receive $500. In addition, the winner will receive $2,500, the first runner-up will receive $1,250 and the second runner-up will receive $1,000. All prize money is intended to be used for future SAAC initiatives or community engagement events.



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