Lea Plarski Award
2009 NJCAA Lea Plarski Award Awarded to Geofrey Kalanzi
By Gage Axford, NJCAA Student Assistant
All photos courtesy of Dakota County Technical College
The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) is proud to announce Geofrey Kalanzi of Dakota County Technical College (Minn.) as the winner of the 2008-2009 NJCAA Lea Plarski Award. The Plarski Award is handed out annually by the NJCAA to the student-athlete who exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service and academic excellence, coupled with athletic ability and achievement.
The Kampala, Uganda native excelled on and off the soccer field, epitomizing a clear model of selflessness and dedication, while showing great strength during times of immense adversity.
At the age of 13, Kalanzi along with his two brothers and one sister lost both parents to the AIDS epidemic. This left him and his siblings homeless, hungry, and with no education or medical attention. The Kalanzi children's fate turned for the better when they met David and Aimee Kyambadde. David was a local Ugandan born outside Kampala, while Aimee was a U.S. citizen from Minnesota. The Kyambadde's warmly welcomed the children into their newly built Home Again Orphanage and taught them life lessons such as self-respect and responsibility.
Not long after entering the Home Again Orphanage, Geofrey Kalanzi assumed the role of "house father" and began helping other children in their transition from a homeless lifestyle into an orphanage setting. He also played on the orphanage soccer team and eventually earned a scholarship to play at a three week tournament in Cologne, Germany.
While back in the United States, Aimee Kyambadde was introduced to Dakota County Technical College men's soccer coach Cam Stoltz. From this meeting, Kalanzi and his brother Moses ultimately were given scholarships to play soccer at DCTC. The two lived with Aimee's parents in Eden Prairie, Minn.
"Geofrey discovered the DCTC soccer program after Aimee (Kyambadde) met Katie Nelson, a player on the 2006-2007 Blue Knights women's soccer team who was interested in working in Uganda," explained Stoltz. "Katie introduced me to Aimee and from there Geoff and Moses were recruited to play soccer while studying for their degrees."
Kalanzi (far right), seen here at the Home Again Orphanage in Uganda, wants to open his own orphanage in his native country once he completes his education.
Throughout his two years in Minnesota, Kalanzi volunteered at the Resurrection Life Church where Aimee Kymbadde's parents served as senior pastors. He was involved with the church choir, worship team, and also led a class on African heritage.
Sharing his life story and educating people about African culture has been a major objective of Kalanzi's since arriving in the United States. At a recent DCTC campus event called "Stories of Students", Kalanzi spoke about his adversities growing up as an orphan and the struggles young Ugandan's face with poverty and AIDS.
Kalanzi took a very active role on the DCTC campus, serving as a Student Ambassador and as a Student Senator.
Kalanzi was also very active at DCTC in a variety of leadership roles. He served two years as a Student Ambassador and two terms as a Student Senator. He was a member of Multicultural Student Leadership Association and managed finances for the American Marketing Association Club.
"As a DCTC Student Ambassador and Senator, Geoff impressed students, faculty and campus visitors with his intelligence and engaging personality," said Stoltz. "The story of how he overcame tremendous hardships stands as a lasting inspiration to everyone who has come to know him."
On the soccer field, Kalanzi voluntarily moved to goalkeeper during his first season after the team was plagued with injuries.
"During Geoff's first season on the team, we lost our starting goalkeeper. Geoff stepped up and took on the position. His unselfish commitment to the team earned him the Blue Knight Award, the college's highest athletic honor," recalled coach Stoltz.
He covered goal in 21 games, totaling 1,881 minutes of playing time with 171 saves and allowed an average of 2.29 goals a game. He went back to his more familiar position of midfielder for the 2008 season and totaled 18 points with seven goals and four assists.
Kalanzi was named Academic All-Region both of his years on campus and was a 2008 Second-Team All-Region 11 honoree. He also was the 2007 recipient of DCTC's Blue Knight Award.
Kalanzi unselfishly moved from midfielder to goalkeeper his first year on the DCTC soccer team.
Kalanzi earned Second Team All-Region 11 honors in 2008.
In the classroom Kalanzi boasts a 3.91 cumulative GPA while majoring as a Buisness Marketing Specialist.
"Geofrey was an ideal student for our program because of the balance and scope of excellence he brings to everything he does," said a passionate Stoltz. "We are proud of Geoff's accomplishments-especially as a member of our overall college community. We trust that he leaves here a better scholar and athlete. We know that we are a better college for having enrolled him as a student."
Kalanzi will be furthering his education and soccer career at College of St. Scholastica (NCAA Division III) in Duluth, Minn. He plans to return to his hometown in Uganda to start his own orphanage after completing his education.
The 2009 NJCAA Lea Plarski Award will be presented to Kalanzi at the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance (CTSA) 11th Annual AT&T National Sportsmanship Awards banquet, which will be held Nov. 21, 2009 in St. Louis, Mo.
The CTSA is the largest coalition of professional and amateur athletics organizations in the United Stats focused on character in sports.
Tabbed the 'Most Inspiring Night in Sports', The National Sportsmanship Awards banquet honors the nation's top athletes and administrators who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship, citizenship, ethical conduct and community service. Award recipients represent the CTSA's member organizations, including the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, National Federation of State High School Associations, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
Athletes that have been recognized at previous CTSA banquets include St. Louis Rams' linebacker Chris Draft, St. Louis Blues' goalie Manny Legace, former St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Rick Horton, former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio and Hall of Famer Tony Gwyn.
For more information on the National Sportsmanship Awards visit www.nationalsportsmanshipawards.com.
PAST LEA PLARSKI AWARD WINNERS
Year, Winner Sport(s), College; City, State
1995-1996, John Combs, Basketball, Lees College; Jackson, Ky.
Amy Parker, Basketball/Slow Pitch Softball, Jones County Junior College; Ellisville, Miss.
1996-1997, George Russell Sanders, Football, Jones County Junior College; Ellisville, Miss.
Amy Lucas, Tennis, Middle Georgia College; Cochran, Ga.
1997-1998, Douglas Bates, Baseball, Pensacola Junior College; Pensacola, Fla.
Terra Sarnacki-Royer, Cross Country/Track/Swimming, SUNY-Cobleskill; Cobleskill, N.Y.
1998-1999, Sarah Wood, Soccer, St. Louis Community College-Meramec; St. Louis, Mo.
1999-2000, Larry Scheller, Soccer, Belleville Area Community College; Belleville, Ill.
2000-2001, Mindy Madewell, Basketball, Connors State College; Warner, Okla.
2001-2002, Jermaine Harris, Football, Georgia Military College; Milledgeville, Ga.
2002-2003, Melanie Mendrop, Soccer, Hinds Community College; Raymond, Miss.
2003-2004, Theresa Berry, Volleyball, Bevill State Community College-Fayette; Fayette Ala.
2004-2005, Kayla Shaul, Golf, Daytona Beach Community College; Daytona Beach, Fla.
2005-2006, Patrick Lepper, Basketball, John Wood Community College; Quincy, Ill.
2006-2007, Angela Verbeelen, Softball, Florida Community College; Jacksonville, Fla.
2007-2008, Christopher Glaze, Baseball, Jones County Junior College; Ellisville, Miss.
2008-2009, Geofrey Kalanzi, Soccer, Dakota County Technical College; Rosemount, Minn.