2013 National Student-Athlete Day Giant Steps Award Winners


Celebrating 26 Years

The National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) is proud to announce the 2013 National STUDENT-Athlete Day Giant Steps Awards Winners. Winners have been chosen from a pool of nominees received from around the country.

National STUDENT-Athlete Day, created by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS), honors the hard work and dedication of high school and college student-athletes nationwide who have excelled in the classroom and on the playing field, while having made significant contributions to their schools and communities. During the last two decades, over 3.4 million student-athletes have been honored with award certificates for their outstanding achievements.

The mission of the NCAS is to use the power of sport to effect positive social change. We educate and empower individuals and organizations by inspiring values-based thinking leading to actions that promote social responsibility and equality.

This year’s Giant Steps Award Winners include:

Cross Country for Youth – Community Organization:
Cross-Country for Youth (CCFY) is a unique fitness program that introduces young people to cross-country training. But even more importantly, the program uses character-building concepts to develop the whole person. Each day has a character focus, followed by an overview of cross-country principles, a group run and wrap-up exercises. The character development concepts include Integrity, Respect, Sportsmanship, Responsibility, Perseverance, Teamwork, Commitment, Courage, Discipline and Leadership. Youth in the program participate in Cross-Country competitions with their peers from other elementary and middle schools in Charlotte, Huntersville, and 15 states in the Southeast as part of the culminating event, the Footlocker Regional competition.

CCFY’s founder and executive director is Reggie McAfee, one of the legends in all of sports. Reggie was Cincinnati’s greatest high school distance runner. He followed up his successful high school running career at Brevard College and went on to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he became the first African-American to break the 4-minute mile barrier in history, running 3 minutes 57.8 seconds. He is a true leader for the youth who participate in CCFY.

Kathrine Switzer, Runner/Activist – Barrier Breaker
Kathrine Switzer will always be best known as the woman who, in 1967, challenged the all-male tradition of the Boston Marathon and became the first woman to officially enter and run the event. Her entry created an uproar and worldwide notoriety when a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the competition. The photo of this confrontation flashed around the globe and became one of Time-Life’s “100 Photos that Changed the World.”

Switzer finished the race but was radicalized by the incident and was determined to create change for women. Now, four decades later, the incident continues to capture the public imagination and is largely the reason Switzer has dedicated her multi-faceted career to creating opportunities on all fronts for women.

Switzer has run 39 marathons, won the 1974 New York City Marathon and in 1975, her two-hour and 51-minute marathon in Boston was ranked sixth in the world and third in the USA in women’s marathon. She is still running marathons today.

Chris Herren, Chris Herren Project – Civic Leader
Chris Herron was a gifted athlete who played for Boston College, Fresno State, and the Boston Celtics, but his career was cut short by his debilitating addition to recreational drugs and painkillers. Drug-free and alcohol-free since August 1, 2008, Chris is now committed to helping others in need through two organizations: Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren and The Herren Project.

Hoop Dreams is a basketball player development company that offers basketball training through private instruction, clinics and camps. The Herren Project is a 501(c)3 that was established in response to an overwhelming number of people who reached out to Chris for help after the release of his memoir,Basketball Junkie.  The foundation directly assists individuals and families struggling with addiction and educates at-risk populations about the dangers associated with substance abuse and addiction.

Leeronnie Ogletree – A Hero Among Us
Because he endured what no ten year old should ever have to, sexual abuse, Leeronnie Ogletree has a mission. He is using his personal experience to bring about awareness of, and prevent the sexual abuse of children. He is speaking out about that experience, letting others know the warning signs of sexual abuse, steps to reporting and offering a lifeline through his Foundation for children.

In 1973, as a young clubhouse boy in Winter Haven, FL, Leeronnie was working in the place most kids only dream of. But with that dream came a nightmare of being sexually abused for eight years at the hands of clubhouse manager Donald Fitzpatrick. Leeronnie who came forward and told his story, is now using that experience to help others. Fitzpatrick lost his career when the first victim, who still remains anonymous, came forward. He plead guilty in 2002 at the age of 72. Leeronnie was one of seven men, who came forward, but there were many more young black boys who were targeted by Fitzpatrick.

In his book, Major League Addiction, Leeronnie writes about the details the years of abuse and how it affected him deeply into adulthood.

Latipha Cross, Courageous Student-Athletes- Female
Latipha Cross will soon complete her freshman year at Eastern Michigan University, but her journey to this place in life has been anything but easy. She was abused and abandoned by her biological parents and then by those who provided foster care. During her sophomore year in high school, Latipha opted to be homeless rather than endure any more of the pain and suffering she was subjected to at home.   Even as she slept on playgrounds at night, she attended school every day and, with the support of her teachers and coach, committed her energy to success in the classroom and on the track.

During her junior year, just before setting a state record in the 400m, Latipha learned that she had melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.  The following year, after accepting a track scholarship to Eastern Michigan, Latipha was diagnosed with yet another form of cancer, lymphoma.  Because her body was weak from chemotherapy treatments, and she lost the state title that year by .3 of a second, but her spirit and determination were stronger than ever. She is truly a courageous student-athlete.

Anthony Starego, Courageous Student-Athletes – Male
Anthony Starego is autistic. Adopted at the age of three, he could only speak a few words. Now, at the age of 18, Anthony is still developmentally delayed and functions academically at a ten year-old level. Under normal circumstances, social interaction, physical contact and connecting with others would be overwhelming and challenging for Anthony, but he is special and goes after what he wants. After viewing a game winning kick at the end of a Rutgers football game, he knew he wanted to be a kicker. While he may not have known it at that moment, Anthony found his connection. Not just with the ball, but his connection with others. Football games were a place where Anthony cheered on his favorite team from the stands, but now he would be cheered as an official member of the Brick High School (NJ) football team. He became a kicker and this was the place he thrived. Being autistic, Anthony’s life is best managed through rituals and routines. That’s what kicking is all about. It’s the same all the time. It suits Anthony both on and off the field.

Halfway through his fourth year of high school football, Anthony competed for and finally won the position as starting kicker for the Varsity team. In only his second game as the starting kicker, Brick High School faced Tom’s River High School, a state powerhouse team. At the end of the game with only 21 seconds left, the score was tied at 21. It was Anthony’s kick that won the game for Brick High School. One kick he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

John Kitna, Football Coach, Lincoln High School – Coach
Jon Kitna was quarterback for Central Washington University, where he led his team to the NAIA Football National Championship. After graduating with a degree in math, teaching is where he thought he would not be playing professional football. Well that’s exactly where he ended up.

Jon played in the NFL for 16 seasons with Seattle, Dallas, Detroit and Cincinnati. He threw for over for over 29,000 yards resulting in 169 touchdowns. He won the AP Comeback of the Year award in 2003 while playing for Cincinnati. The numbers show how impressive his career was, but the numbers he deals with today, while some are still on the football field, are the ones he uses in the classroom. They have become the most important to him.

After retiring, Jon returned home to Washington and went back to his alma mater Lincoln High School (Tacoma, WA) to coach football and teach math. Those are the numbers that have seen Jon succeed so quickly. The numbers that are changing lives of some of the toughest students in the school. As he inspires these students to learn in the classroom, they feel smart and that changes their outlook about themselves and their futures. Jon builds their self-esteem and shows them that they can succeed. His Algebra class is now the highest scoring period in the entire school. It’s something the Principal calls the Kitna effect – the ability to reach those students no one has ever been able to do.