GVHS graduate and Johnson County Community College student Gracelyn LaForge has been named the 2020-21 Lea Plarski Award winner, given annually to the NJCAA student-athlete who best exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service,
academic excellence, and athletic ability.
As a two-year starter on the Cavalier's volleyball team, La Forge excelled on the court, in the classroom, and in the community. Voted by her peers as a team captain, LaForge was instrumental in Johnson County claiming the 2020-21 NJCAA Division II Volleyball Championship title.
In the national title match, the fourth-seeded Cavaliers defeated No. 1 Parkland in four sets. A consistent force on the front row, LaForge posted seven block assists, nine kills, and a .316 hitting percentage in her final contest with Johnson County.
LaForge started in all of Johnson County's 29 matches this season, averaging 2.59 kills per set, a .359 hitting percentage, and 0.75 blocks per set. These season efforts earned the outside hitter First Team All-America honors.
LaForge's distinct leadership abilities and dedication on the volleyball court carried over to her efforts in the classroom. As an occupational therapy major, LaForge earned a 3.83 cumulative grade point average at Johnson County. In a demanding curriculum that is best known for the preparation provided to students who enter the workforce after graduation or transfer to a four-year institution, LaForge earned a perfect 4.00 GPA during multiple terms.
The passion for occupational therapy that LaForge possesses in the classroom is evident in the actions she takes within the community. LaForge has dedicated time in her busy schedule to volunteer at a preschool, assisting children with special needs with development. With compassion for others, LaForge spent time during the summer of 2020 fundraising for and distributing packages to those in her local community that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted.
Next year, LaForge will transfer to NCAA Division II Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO to continue her academic and athletic careers as a member of the Hawks' volleyball team.
LaForge will be honored during the inaugural NJCAA Foundation Awards event, presented by the Nicole and David Tepper Foundation, held virtually on Thursday, June 24 at 5:30pm CST. The event will recognize the NJCAA Male and Female Student-Athletes of the Year, the Lea Plarski Award winner, the Champion Award winners, and the Difference Maker Award winner, in addition to the inaugural class of the NJCAA Hall of Fame.
The NJCAA's Lea Plarski Award is handed out annually in the name of former NJCAA President Lea Plarski as recognition of her tremendous service to the NJCAA and two-year college athletics. The former director of athletics at St. Louis Community College/Florissant Valley, Plarski helped to establish the Women's Division of the NJCAA in 1975. She served as Vice-President for Women from 1975-1990 when she made NJCAA history as the first female ever elected to the office of President, a position she held from 1990-1996.
In honor of her numerous accomplishments, as well as her undeniable dedication to the student-athlete, the NJCAA Lea Plarski Award was created. Since 1995, the award has been presented to an NJCAA student-athlete who exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence, athletic ability, and achievements – qualities that were the cornerstones of the Plarski "era".