INDIANAPOLIS - Wingate University is one of 15 Division II colleges to be awarded $500 for its community engagement efforts. The Wingate women's basketball team hosted "Future Bulldog Day" in December, inviting 432 students and chaperones from six local elementary schools to the game against Lander University.
Community engagement is a key part of Division II's strategic position. It emphasizes not only the relationship of the athletics program with the community but also the interaction of the overall institution with the community in which it is located.
"I'm pleased the NCAA chose to recognize Wingate for our community engagement initiatives," Wingate University Vice President and Director of Athletics Steve Poston says. "Future Bulldog Day was a great hit on campus. We partnered with our local schools to bring a number of students to the game that otherwise wouldn't have had this opportunity. I am grateful to Coach Hancock, Coach Terrell and Coach Auguste for their diligent work on this project. It is Wingate University's desire to be an active member of our local community. This award signifies our commitment."
Head women's basketball coach Ann Hancock got the idea from an event that took place during her coaching tenure at UNC Wilmington. "One of our staff members was doing his student teaching and asked his fifth grade class how many of the had ever been on a college campus," Hancock says. "Very few had so we thought it would be a great opportunity to expose them to the possibilities available to them through education. We had seen other schools do similar things but added our own twists. So when I came to Wingate I thought it would be neat to give Union County students the same opportunity. Obviously it takes a lot of help from others to make it happen. We are especially appreciative to the principals and teachers as well as the sponsors."
Hancock mentions the importance of reaching out to the children in the community. "It is important to reach out to children in our community to give them hope in the future and allow them to have dreams and goals that they may not have thought possible prior to coming on campus. The event was a huge success. The teachers and students had nothing to say but positive comments. One teacher said that a student told her, "Now I want to go to college." That one comment made it worth it for us."
The Bulldog student-athletes were also a key part of the success during Future Bulldog Day. "The players weren't really involved in the planning but were a large part of the event. They greeted each student with enthusiasm. They also led the entire group in a dance. They thought it was really neat to have the students attend the game. I think it made them realize that they are truly role models."
- Wingate media relations