VOLLEYBALL: Emma Carter earns national Dig Pink award, scholarship

Ridgeland senior Emma Carter was one of three student-athletes nationwide to be honored with a Side-Out Foundation National Dig Pink Award. / Contributed

Emma Carter enjoys volleyball as much as she enjoys helping others and pairing the two together was obvious for the Ridgeland senior.

Not only has Carter helped coach the Rossville Middle School volleyball team for the past two seasons, she has also organized and hosted benefit Dig Pink volleyball tournaments through the national Side-Out Foundation to help raise money for Stage IV metastatic breast cancer awareness.

In her first tournament two years ago, Carter’s efforts raised nearly $1,200, but she decided to go all-in this past year.

After applying for the Side-Out Ambassador Program, Carter was also required to complete extra educational hours, in addition to hosting another tournament. According to her mother, Shannon, the RMS head coach, Emma chose to interview multiple breast cancer survivors to learn more about how family, friends and social workers could best support those who are fighting this disease.

The Ambassador Program also required her to submit an essay to a panel of judges, outlining what she had learned and how she planned to go about sharing her knowledge with others.

Then in mid-December at the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) All-America/Players of the Year Banquet in Minneapolis, Minn., Emma was one of just three students awarded the 2018 Side-Out/AVCA National Dig Pink Awards, which also came with a $3,500 college scholarship and special recognition at the banquet alongside the top college volleyball players in the country.

“Being able to learn and grow through these experiences has been so rewarding,” Carter said. “Receiving this recognition from the Side-Out Foundation makes it even more special.”

Carter’s efforts this past year saw six local middle school teams participate in the local 2018 Dig Pink tournament, which exceeded her goal of raising over $2,500. The RMS team was also awarded a Service Ace award for this reaching that monetary amount.

“We are so incredibly proud to honor our 2018 National Dig Pink Award winners, along with our Ambassador Program scholarship winners,” Janice Kruger, Vice President of Programs at Side-Out, stated in a press release. “Again this year, we had outstanding participation from all across the USA and even overseas. The work these young people are doing in organizing and running their Dig Pink events at their schools is having impact not only on the (Ambassador Program) applicant but also on the students, staff, and teachers in their schools.”

According to the release, the three award recipients were honored based on “demonstrating extraordinary commitment to the sport and to their community.” They also received the highest scores on their essays, addressing why they felt connected to the cause and elaborating on other ways each had given back to the community throughout the year.”

“With the help of the women I interviewed that have been affected by breast cancer, I learned that this illness can affect more than just the person who is sick,” Carter explained. “These women opened my eyes to some of the faults in the medical system and ways others can sometimes unintentionally make things more difficult.

“But they also shared all the thoughtful ways their families and communities stepped up in their time of need. They also gave me ideas of ways I can help others as a future social worker. These women were all mothers, so they still had to be caregivers while fighting this disease. They were kind and gracious in answering my questions and explaining the medical side to me. They are superheroes.”

Carter added that hosting the Dig Pink tournaments showed her how people and communities will come together to support worthy causes.

“Hundreds of people came to support me in my project, which means a lot to me because you never understand how big a community support system is until you see something like that,” she added. “It was also amazing to see players from six different schools coming together to support people they did not even know by playing volleyball — the sport they love.”

“I have been so impressed with (Emma’s) drive and determination with the Dig Pink volleyball tournaments over the past several years,” said Damon Raines, Superintendent of Walker County Schools. “She is truly deserving of our recognition and I am glad to see she is receiving some recognition from the Side-Out Foundation. She has a bright future and I look forward to hearing additional great things about her.”

Carter plans to study social work at Judson College in Marion, Alabama, where — as she learned over the Christmas break — she has made the college’s volleyball team and will be receiving both academic and athletic scholarships to attend the school.