Strange as it seems, Avila University has the hit TV reality show “Survivor” to thank for one of its top student assets the past four years.
After completing a highly successful academic and soccer career at Raymore-Peculiar (Mo.) High School, Lisa York signed a letter of intent for a soccer scholarship at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. However, that opportunity imploded before she ever enrolled. The soccer coach who recruited her left the university to be on “Survivor,” leaving York’s future suddenly unsettled.
What came of the situation was an opportunity for which York said she’ll be forever appreciative. A high school friend of hers already had signed to play soccer at Avila and told her he’d introduce her to Eagles coach Chris Clements.
“Coach Clements told me he could help me,” York said. “From the beginning, Avila has helped me out a lot.”
Over the last 3 ½ years, York, a senior majoring in marketing and business management, has returned that favor by becoming one of Avila’s most involved and productive student-athletes.
One of the first activities she jumped into from day one was working with campus ministry. When Clements first spoke with York about coming to Avila, he talked about the University’s strong commitment to service and introduced her to campus minister Dave Armstrong. During her time at the University, she has worked with Habitat for Humanity, helping build homes for needy families.
During freshman orientation, York also was introduced to Jason Baldwin, Avila’s director of student life. She had become interested in event planning when she organized a food drive with Harvesters: the Community Food Network as a senior at her high school. She immediately asked Baldwin if she could serve as his work study, and she’s helped him organize student life activities around campus for the last 3 ½ years. She said her greatest accomplishment was convincing organizers of Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society-sponsored fundraising walk, to bring an event to Avila’s campus, which it has the last three years.
“Lisa is an outstanding student-athlete that embodies the spirit of Avila,” Baldwin said. “She is reliable, hard-working, caring and a positive role model to other students, because she always strives to do her best.”
Then, there’s soccer. York established herself right away as a capable midfielder, starting 14 of 18 games her freshman season. As a sophomore, she started 15 of 18 games and contributed three assists. The next season, she started 18 of 20 games in helping the Eagles to an impressive 12-3-5 record. This season, she scored her first career goal.
“Lisa York has been a team captain for three years,” Clements said. “She was named captain the spring of her freshman year. I’ve never heard of a girl being captain for that long. She embodies the attitude you need for team sports. Her work rate at both practices and games was phenomenal, along with her ability to always be an asset to her team.”
Yet, it was another experience with the soccer team – one that, of course, involved service – that York said will stick with her.
“Going to the Dominican Republic my junior year was the biggest thing we did,” she said. “We went to a village and played with children, saw how they lived and played against local soccer teams. Most of the kids we saw down there didn’t even have soccer balls. We left all of our equipment with them when we left.”
With all these activities, there’s no way York would have time to keep up with all of her classwork, right? Wrong. York has been an honor student her entire time at Avila and will graduate in December with a double major in marketing and business management. She plans on entering Avila’s master’s in business administration program in January.
“She’s a fantastic student and a great spokesperson for the University,” said Brian Buckler, Ph.D., professor of marketing. “She’s so well-spoken. And I think she really appreciates her experience here.”
That she does.
“All of the opportunities you have at Avila give you resources to go on in life,” York said. “Professors not only know what they’re talking about, but they care. From step A to B, Avila is with you. They want to see you succeed, so they give you the resources you need to succeed.”
To top off her undergraduate career at Avila, York was crowned homecoming queen during halftime of the Eagles’ football game Oct. 13.
“At first, I didn’t know what to think about it,” she said. “I don’t mind talking in front of people, but not just standing there being judged. Being nominated was an honor.
“But, when I got into the interview process, I realized they weren’t giving this to just anybody. Being involved was what they were looking at.”
Being involved is what Lisa York has done – indeed, what she’s been – at Avila for nearly the last four years.
The University is the better for it. AU
Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434