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N4A Announces Student-Athletes of the Month for March 2017

March 20, 2017

As student-athlete development professionals who work with many students from all walks of life on a day-to-day basis, often times we encounter extraordinary stories of individuals overcoming extreme adversities. Although the odds may be stacked against them, these individuals have a drive deep inside them to succeed in the face of overwhelming challenges. It is working with these outstanding young people that makes the job of a student-athlete development professional so rewarding.

In an effort to recognize and celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of these individuals, N4A will highlight one or more student-athletes each month for their determination to achieve success regardless of personal, academic and emotional challenges.

For March, N4A is honored to recognize Amanda Kessel (University of Minnesota) and Taylor Kaczmarek (University of San Diego).

A competitive women’s ice hockey player, Kessel has an impressive athletic resume - nation’s top women’s ice hockey recruit coming out of high school; national player of the year her junior year in college; and 2014 Olympic silver medalist, just to name a few.  After coming off of an undefeated season with her Minnesota Gophers team and taking a hiatus from enrollment to train and practice with the US Women’s National Team, Kessel suffered a debilitating concussion.  Following the Olympics, Kessel enrolled in classes for the fall term, planning to complete her degree and senior season at Minnesota.  However, due to constant nausea, headaches, and disconnectedness, she was forced to withdraw from her courses.  After a year of treatment with no effects, Kessel visited with a different doctor in the summer of 2015.  This doctor provided the necessary encouragement to fight back against the concussion, resume physical activity and return to classes in the fall.  Following orders, Kessel resumed her coursework in the fall, earning a 3.615 GPA for the semester, and was cleared to return to her team during the spring semester, entering a February home game (almost 2 years since her last game as a Gopher) to huge applause.  Through hard work and perseverance, Kessel overcame a major obstacle.  She will be graduating this summer with a B.S. in Sports Management, and has signed a one-year deal with the New York Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League as the highest paid player in the league.  She plans to compete in the 2018 Olympics.

Halfway through his collegiate career, Kaczmarek had to deal with something completely unexpected: Leukemia. After playing baseball for two years at South Mountain Community College, Kaczmarek was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and was prescribed a treatment of 3 ½ years of chemotherapy. He took a year off from school to focus on treatment, and then returned to school in the fall of 2013 at the University of San Diego in hopes of playing baseball again. During this year, Kaczmarek was traveling back and forth between San Diego and Arizona for treatment 1-2 times per month. While he was unable to complete a full season due to extreme fatigue, Kaczmarek continued to focus on his academics. After being cleared by his doctor, he was able to compete for the entire season the following year, helping lead the team to the West Coast Conference championship. Kaczmarek was able to graduate this past May with a Bachelor of Business Administration, but the biggest news was that the chemotherapy treatment was successful and he beat Leukemia! Through it all, his character and resilience was an inspiration to campus staff, faculty, and his peers.

About N4A: N4A, which has been in existence since 1975, is a diverse educational service and professional non-profit organization. Membership of N4A includes academic support and student services personnel who are committed to enhancing opportunities for academic, athletics and personal success for student-athletes. For more information on N4A, visit www.nfoura.org. N4A is administered by NACDA, now in its 52nd year, administers 17 professional associations, including seven for the separate business units that report directly to the athletics directors. For more information on NACDA, visit www.nacda.com.