DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Many college students can't imagine starting their day before the sun comes up, but for the last four years Sarah Willey has started most of her days with a 5:30 a.m. trip to the gym.
During her time at the University of North Texas, Willey has been a standout on the volleyball court and in the classroom. The senior from Wichita, Kansas, was a two-year captain on the UNT women's volleyball team. She also was an exceptional student in the Teach North Texas program, which allows students to earn a degree in math or science and their teaching certification simultaneously.
Managing the time commitments of being a student-athlete with a challenging academic course load came naturally to Willey, who will graduate on May 12 (Saturday). In addition to her responsibilities on the court and in the classroom, she also coached volleyball and served on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Regardless of her multitude of obligations, she was able to maintain a 3.7 grade point average, and recently was one of 13 students nationwide to receive a Women's Enhancement Scholarship from the NCAA.
The scholarship will give Willey $6,000 to put toward her first year of postgraduate studies. The scholarships are designed for student-athletes who are seeking admission or have been accepted into a sports administration or similar academic program. Willey will pursue a graduate degree in sports management at Wichita State University. She says she decided to pursue a career in sports management based on her experiences as a student-athlete at UNT.
"Being a part of athletics really let me see behind the scenes and what the people do up in development and marketing, and I decided that I would enjoy working in a collegiate setting or even being a coach and athletic director at the high school level," says Willey. "I knew that going to graduate school was something that I wanted to explore."
Willey, who was a student teacher at The Colony High School this semester, says she isn't completely switching gears from her original plan to teach math, and still plans to teach down the road. She also says that her experiences with the Teach North Texas program have helped her develop a number of skills that will help her succeed in whichever career she ultimately chooses.
"Teaching is a great long-term career, so I can see myself teaching down the road," says Willey. "TNT and volleyball have taught me a lot of leadership and organizational skills. There are a lot of things that go into teaching, a lot of things that go into the end product, so I think my experiences will help me be successful throughout my life."