Courtney Nelson (center) is one of many Pittsburg State student athletes who credit scholarships with allowing them to earn a degree while competing at the highest levels.
“I was at a summer meet with my Dad when we ran into Coach (Kyle) Rutledge,” said Nelson. “He said I should consider Pitt State. I visited campus and just fell in love with the university. I knew this is where I wanted to go.”
Now a senior, Nelson is one of the premiere hurdler/sprinters in NCAA Division II.
Over the weekend, she won both the 60-meter hurdles as well as the 60-meter dash at the 2018 MIAA Indoor Championships. She also ran the anchor leg of the women's 4x400m relay team, which placed second at the meet. More importantly, she’s on track to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.
Nelson’s collegiate career, and future professional success, might never have happened without an athletic scholarship.
“Honestly, having a scholarship allowed me to go to college,” said Nelson. “My parents always told me that I should use my God-given ability because it would be hard to pay for college. I’ve been able to do something they never had the opportunity to do, and I’m grateful for that.”
Pittsburg State is working to give more student-athletes this type of experience by launching a new fundraising initiative focused primarily on scholarships.
“It’s a targeted approach to annual giving that we really haven’t had before,” said Jim Johnson, director of intercollegiate athletics at Pittsburg State. “Much like the Ahearn Fund at K-State or the Tigers Scholarship Fund at Mizzou, the Silverback Fund will be used to support scholarships.”
The university formally launched the program at its 2017 Gorilla Gala. Early feedback is positive, but the next 18 months are critical to the long-term success of the program.
“The initiative gives fans an easy way to help our student-athletes achieve their primary goal of earning a degree, and do so in the manner that best fits their current situation,” said Johnson. “Whether you’re a recent graduate or a longtime alum, you’ll be helping a fellow Gorilla succeed as a student and an athlete.”
That’s been the case for Nelson, who had these words for those who made her scholarship, and college dreams, a reality.
“Thank you for believing in me,” said Nelson. “Thank you for giving me a chance. I’ve grown so much here; as an athlete and as a person. You’ve given me the opportunity to pursue a degree, while still doing something I love.”
Nelson is set to graduate in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interior Design.
For additional information about The Silverback Fund please visit www.pittstate.edu/silverback.
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