Lady Senator selected to participate in Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. --- Auburn University at Montgomery women's basketball forward Caitlin Cunningham has been selected one of eleven NAIA student-athletes to participate in the 2011-12 Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program.

Joining Cunningham in the program are: Winston Davenport (Azusa Pacific (Calif.) University – Athletic Training); Rachel Blonski (Carlow (Penn.) University - Softball); Hannah Martin (Central Christian (Kan.) College - Softball); Julie Teeple (Columbia (Mo.) College – Volleyball and Basketball); Shannon Griffith (Oklahoma Baptist University - Soccer); Whitney Sweet (Taylor (Ind.) University - Volleyball); Randon McNeil (Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) University - Golf); Stephanie Belokon (Judson (Ill.) University – Cross Country); Cameron Mettenbrink (Hastings (Neb.) College - Wrestling); Jazmine Green (Fisk (Tenn.) University - Volleyball); Devon Golden (Georgetown (Ky.) College - Basketball); and Lauren Buckles (Ottawa University - Basketball and Track & Field / Central Plains Blood Region).

"This is a great opportunity for Caitlin to develop her leadership skills," said head coach Dan Davis. "This will be a good experience and will challenge her to become a stronger leader on and off the basketball court. I'm excited to have another representative from AUM women's basketball in the leadership program, and I hope that we can continue to have representatives in the future."

Now in its fifth year, the program inspires, motivates, and creates a new and diverse generation of American Red Cross volunteers and leaders through exemplifying the five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character.

Cunningham is the second AUM student-athlete to participate in the program, joining former teammate Carlie Ainsworth, who was selected to the 2009-10 program.

State Farm Insurance is sponsoring this partnership in support of the diversity initiatives of the Red Cross. The leadership program kicks off with two weeks of training at the Red Cross National Headquarters located in Washington, D.C. from June 5-18. The incoming class will participate in a rare and unique opportunity to acquire first-hand coaching, mentoring and professional leadership training presented by the Red Cross, one of the nation's largest non-profit organizations.

"Athletics plays such an important role in creating a sense of community on college campuses. The partnership with the NAIA has created a rich opportunity to connect campus communities with the life-saving mission of the Red Cross through the energy of NAIA student-athletes," said Brian Hamil, Red Cross National Chair Biomedical Services. "As we enter our fifth year of the program, we remain grateful for the continuing financial support of State Farm Insurance."

"We are extremely proud of the relationship we have built with the American Red Cross and State Farm Insurance. Student-athletes selected for this leadership academy have an amazing opportunity to further their skill sets, build lifelong relationships while carrying out a very important mission," said Lori Thomas, NAIA Senior Vice President for Membership and Character Initiatives. "To know that over 50 NAIA student-athletes produced an increase of blood drives on college campuses, an increase of blood collections and brought in more than 2,000 first-time donors is incredible and we could not be more proud."

The leadership program is an experience which allows NAIA student-athletes to be a part of a team made up of young adults from NAIA campuses throughout the country. The program is part of a larger Red Cross diversity strategy for moving the Red Cross from awareness to action, building Red Cross capacity to serve all Americans.

Student-athletes have a chance to learn from civic and business leaders of how to uncover their leadership potential off the court. Each participant will organize successful campus blood drives, actively participate on a leadership board, and take part in diversity and cultural competency training. For their efforts, the student-athletes will receive scholarship support provided by the Red Cross and State Farm Insurance.