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N4A Announces Student-Athletes of the Month for October 2017

Oct. 17, 2017

CLEVELAND - 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, the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals (N4A) will highlight one or more student-athletes each month for their determination to achieve success regardless of personal, academic and emotional challenges.

For October, 2017, N4A is honored to recognize Haven Leland (Western Carolina University) and Geonte Jackson (University of Texas at San Antonio).

Leland has had to overcome numerous obstacles in her life en route to becoming a collegiate athlete. At a young age, she was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which directly affects an individuals’ ability to learn and process information. Through her academic struggles, she was forced to discover new ways of learning, listening, and reading. Utilizing these new techniques in the classroom, she applied the same concepts on the pitch. Though she lacked confidence academically, she was able to find her voice through soccer. While preparing for her academic and athletic career at WCU, she was blindsided by the death of her cousin due to a drug overdose. Their death triggered the emotions she faced earlier in her life with the loss of both her grandfather and uncle to suicide. She was conditionally admitted into WCU with all odds to succeed as a Division I athlete working against her. Though it took time and tenacity, she embraced her APD and utilized the accommodations granted to her by the University. As her confidence grew in the classroom, it was reflected in all other aspects of her life including soccer. By the end of her tenure as a Catamount, Leland made the Dean’s List multiple semesters and was named team captain for her senior campaign. As Leland summarizes her college experiences, “when we embrace who we are and decide to be genuine, instead of who we think others want us to be, we open ourselves up to real success.”

Jackson transferred to UTSA with hopes of playing baseball and pursing his academic interests. Pushing himself to excel academically Jackson decided to major in athletic medicine, while taking on the responsibility and challenges of being a Division I baseball player. Despite his initial successes on the diamond and in the classroom, he encountered a devastating setback. Jackson received news that his mother was diagnosed with cancer and would need surgery and chemotherapy. After getting the difficult news, he returned to San Antonio the following fall and focused all of his attention on his academics and baseball. That spring, Jackson received the news that his mother’s health was declining, forcing him to take leave from the team and campus. His mother died the same day he traveled home. Jackson returned to UTSA and the Roadrunner baseball team after a short time with his family. In spite of his perseverance, Jackson was dealt another crushing blow. A freak accident left his left eye socket fractured when he was struck by a ball during a game. He later learned that in addition to the fracture he also had a traumatic macular hole in his retina, that would require several surgeries to repair the damage. His vision would be altered indefinitely. Jackson’s dream of playing baseball professionally will never come to fruition, but through the adversity he has faced he now plans to continue to exceed academically and eventually attend medical school. His dream now is to become a doctor.

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 53rd 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.