Maria Burns Ortiz

Peterson and Yeisley represent “all the good kids” in winning the Senior CLASS Award

by Maria Burns Ortiz December 14, 2009 in Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer


The student athletes who least expect recognition often deserve it most. They are the ones who excel in the classroom and at athletics. The ones who give up their free time to volunteer in their communities. The ones teammates look to for leadership. The ones who stay positive in the face of adversity – whether it’s on the playing field or in life.

Such is a fitting description for Texas A&M’s Emily Peterson and Penn State’s Jason Yeisley, the 2009 recipients of the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award for soccer.

“You go to school and do these things because it means a lot to you, not to get an award or anything, but to have people recognize you for doing it, it’s something special,” Peterson said.
The Aggies defender earned a 3.92 GPA majoring in finance, has helped her team to conference and postseason success, is active in her community and refuses to let any obstacle stand in her way.

“Emily’s a great example of how you can be smart, resourceful and friendly and how you can combine all those things with being a world-class athlete and really inspire other people to be their best,” Texas A&M coach G Guerrieri said.

Being a role model is a position Peterson has embraced, realizing the impact she can make on those around her. Born with one arm, Peterson volunteers to educate parents of children with upper-arm differences.

“When I was born, my mom read a lot of articles about people who had one arm and overcame challenges,” Peterson said. “She said that really helped her. … So I hope that [my being an example] can help people. When I find out that it does, it’s really touching.”

Being committed to making a positive difference also defines Yeisley. The forward has confronted adversity on and off the field while playing for the Nittany Lions. Despite being seriously injured four times in two years, including a career-threatening knee injury, Yeisley’s commitment to his team never wavered. He was an impact player whether he was in the game or on the sidelines offering support.

“He makes a conscious decision to be positive and enthusiastic,” Penn State coach Barry Gorman said. “You can’t help but have that rub off on his teammates, coaches, everybody that he comes in contact with.”

After learning a former teacher’s son was diagnosed with a rare disease, Yeisley has been active in working with the Race for Adam Foundation to bring attention to Niemann Pick Type C. In fact, he’s dedicated his Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award to the young boy, Adam Recke.

“When the community started getting involved with this award [by voting], I realized it could be a great thing because it could help raise awareness,” Yeisley said.

Putting others before himself, even when it’s his moment, is what sets Yeisley apart.

“Jason embodies all those good kids out in there in college athletics,” Gorman said. “He’s winning this award not just for himself or his family or Penn State, but for all the good guys. Jason embodies what a lot of good kids are doing, not because they’re looking for one piece of recognition, but just doing it because it’s the right thing to do. “

The same can be said for Peterson. These two players have worked tirelessly to excel and to help others without expecting any accolades or attention – which only serves to reinforce just how much they deserve this recognition.