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|Stewart wins Southland Citizenship Award|
Northwestern State basketball guard Gary Stewart of Vidalia has won the 2011-12 Southland Conference Steve McCarty Citizenship Award, the league office announced Monday.
The annual award recognizes one male and one female student-athlete who exhibit outstanding qualities in citizenship, sportsmanship, leadership and community service. The female winner this year is Central Arkansas volleyball, softball and soccer student-athlete Cristin Curl. She and Stewart will be honored at the Southland Conference Honors Ceremony and Dinner in Galveston, Texas, May 22.
"I was shocked when I heard," Stewart said. "I never thought I would win something like this."
It is the fourth time in the five-year history of the award that a student-athlete from Northwestern has earned the honor. Softball's Cary Bruno was the 2008 female winner, followed by women's basketball competitor Lyndzee Greene in 2009. Football player Yaser Elqutub was the 2011 male recipient.
Stewart has demonstrated leadership on and off the court at NSU in two years on campus.
Stewart has become a visible presence in athletics, academics and in service to the Natchitoches community as well as in Vidalia.
Stewart serves on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was recently nominated as a committee chair for the Campus Outreach Committee after only one year of service. While serving on SAAC, he has assisted in numerous projects, including Samaritan's Feet Week, an event designed to raise enough money to fund a shoe drive for the children of the local community. He has also worked with the Natchitoches Elementary Lab School on a 5K race and participated in a kids' health fest at another Natchitoches elementary school while making numerous civic events with his NSU basketball teammates.
"I believe in talking to the young people and letting them know that they can achieve their dreams, but they have to keep their grades up," Stewart said. "It's also about giving back. I feel like I owe a lot to the people who helped me get to where I am."
During his spring breaks, Stewart returns to his hometown and speaks with students about the importance of studying and preparing for state testing so that they can perform well and go to college.
Stewart is able to emphasize the importance of a strong education by example as he maintained a 4.0 grade point average and an all-state basketball and all-district football standout.
At NSU, he is a four-time Dean's List recipient with a 3.50 GPA in psychology. Stewart was chosen for the 10-man Southland All-Academic Basketball Team this past season.
Stewart also has spent time working with the Annual Gala for the Women's Resource Center and has organized a community barbeque in his hometown during his summer break.
Stewart also participates in a choir which travels around the Vidalia area performing at churches.
The former Class 3A Player of the Year's dedication to service has allowed him to impact children in the Natchitoches and Vidalia communities, making him a positive role model.
"Congratulations to Gary Stewart, an outstanding young man, on being chosen for this prestigious honor," said NSU Director of Athletics Greg Burke. "It is testament to Gary, his family and those who were great influences in his upbringing back home in Vidalia. It is also a credit to the environment for personal growth, leadership, character, and citizenship that we promote throughout the athletic department, and is especially a compliment to (basketball) coach Mike McConathy and the Demon basketball staff, and our academic staff, Carrie Crowell and Cary Bruno, for setting the right tone with our student-athletes."
Stewart played in all 32 games, starting three, this past season as a sophomore guard. He had averages of 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game while shooting 69 percent from the free throw line.
He posted six double-figure scoring games, including season highs of 13 against Campbell and at Central Arkansas as he helped spark NSU wins.
He also scored 12 at nationally-ranked Mississippi State.
"We knew when Gary joined our program that he would add a lot of value on and off the basketball court," said McConathy. "His leadership skills and character were immediately evident. He is very committed to academics. His basketball ability is very good, too."
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