Highlands sporting director wants players to prioritize academics

When Highlands sporting director Drew Karpen joined the district two years ago, he wasn’t just focusing on sport.

“One of my main goals was to develop the academic side of the program,” said Karpen, former deputy athletic director at North Allegheny.

He launched a Scholar-Athlete program to recognize students who stand out both in the classroom and on the court, court or track.

With the help of coaches, building managers and Assistant Superintendent Cathleen Cubelic, Karpen developed a multi-level recognition program to encourage athletes to achieve better grades.

Students who maintain a cumulative grade point average of 90% achieve All-Scholar status; those with marks between 80% and 89% are given an All-Academic nickname.

The names are posted on the district’s website after the fall, winter and spring sporting seasons. The program includes students from grades 7 to 12.

“We got an overwhelming response by putting it on the website,” Karpen said. “I would like to go further and have children recognized at the end of year academic awards ceremony. “

School principal Debbie Beale applauded the effort, both from Karpen and the students.

“It’s a very good thing,” she said. “Most of the money (of the scholarship) for the university is given on the academic side.”

The district may host college-level athletes to talk to high school kids about the importance of staying on top of their game in the classroom.

“We all know what’s best for them, but hearing it from someone they are striving to be, it could be different,” Karpen said.

Karpen said teams can qualify for a collective honor, which he sees as a building block of the program.

For example, in the fall of 2020, the cross-country team was labeled All-Scholar because a sufficient number of members maintained an average of 90%.

“It helps with team spirit,” Karpen said. “I saw children sitting in the hall before practicing their homework. I think the kids are encouraging their teammates to do better, and they’re starting to take it more seriously.

“I can’t wait to see where this can go. “

Tawnya Panizzi is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .