COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An ambassador on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, Courtney Calkins of Iowa Lakes has been named the 2017 recipient of the Lea Plarski Award as announced by the NJCAA Executive Committee on Thursday.
Given to the student-athlete that best exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service,academic excellence, and athletic ability, the Plarski honor was awarded to Calkins for her exceptional contributions as a Laker. After posting a 4.0 GPA in her final year at Iowa Lakes, Calkins recently graduated with an associates of arts degree with an emphasis in education.
“To be recognized for this honor is beyond belief,” Calkins stated. “I am very excited and thankful to have been chosen to receive this award.”
As a member of the Lakers’ softball team, Calkins was an integral part of the team’s 34-16 record. A two-way player, Calkins appeared in all 50 games and boasted a .384 batting average while also posting a team-best 18-5 record in the circle. For her efforts, the sophomore was named to the All-Region XI Second Team and earned Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC) Pitcher of the Week honors.
While Calkins’ success on the diamond stood out, her achievements in the classroom and on campus were of high caliber. Calkins was named to the NJCA All-Academic First Team and the Academic All-Region XI First Team. Calkins served as Student Senate President in 2017 and was awarded the John K. “Jack” Kibbie Outstanding Student Award. Her accomplishments in the classroom led Calkins to be honored as the 2017 Iowa Lakes commencement speaker in front of her graduating peers.
“At Iowa Lakes, I was given so many opportunities,” Calkins said. “I was able to be a part of a softball team that had a successful two years and I built many friendships with my teammates that will last a lifetime. I had some of the best coaches, teachers, and mentors. Without their help, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Athletic and academic attainments were plentiful for Calkins, but her dedication to serving the community of Estherville set her apart. Calkins organized canned food and hygiene product drives, volunteered with the city of Estherville to spruce up the landscaping scene, and spent time at Demoney Elementary school on a weekly basis along with the local animal shelter.
Calkins’ impact on the local community was felt regularly, but her service extended well beyond Estherville. Calkins and her teammates raised over $1,100 for the American Heart Association, $300 to the Upper Des Moines Toys for Tots, and $700 worth of toys to children overseas through Operation Christmas Child. Calkins teamed up with the Centers Against Abuse and Sexual Assault to organize an It’s On Us campaign to bring awareness to sexual abuse.
Calkins noted the importance of giving back. “Being involved is important. It’s not for the recognition, awards, or a pat on the back. Being involved is for giving back to a community that has given you so much. At Iowa Lakes, I had so many opportunities and people that opened up doors and helped me grow as a parson that the least I could do was give back to the school and community.”
Iowa Lakes head coach Katie Larson, also Calkins’ student senate advisor discussed Calkins’ impact over the past two seasons. “Courtney is a great choice for the Lea Plarski Award because she is an example of the many different ways that success can be achieved at a community college. I have been honored to witness her leadership skills and have enjoyed hearing from faculty and staff about her positive presence on campus. Courtney’s bubbly personality, infectious smile, and kind heart have touched so many people here at Iowa Lakes and within the community.
“She has been a leader and a role model on the diamond to not only her peers, but also to every little girl in the area that has the dream to be a college athlete,” Larson added. “Courtney’s impact on this program, school, and community will carry on for years and I am very proud of what she has accomplished here.”
A native of Osseo, MN, Calkins committed to Tennessee Wesleyan College in April to continue her softball career and will study secondary education for mathematics.
About the Lea Plarski Award
The NJCAA’s Lea Plarski Award is handed out annually in the name of former NJCAA President Lea Plarski as recognition of her tremendous service to the NJCAA and two-year college athletics. The former director of athletics at St. Louis Community College/Florissant Valley, Plarski helped to establish the Women’s Division of the NJCAA in 1975. She served as Vice-President for Women from 1975-1990 when she made NJCAA history as the first female ever elected to the office of President, a position she held from 1990-1996. In honor of her numerous accomplishments, as well as her undeniable dedication to the student-athlete, the NJCAA Lea Plarski Award was created. Since 1995, the award has been presented to an NJCAA student-athlete who exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence, athletic ability and achievements – qualities that were the cornerstones of the Plarski “era”.