Star Athletes Earn NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships for Stellar Work
Sam Konstanty, Michelle Toro Become First Comets to Win Award That Recognizes Excellence On, Off the Field
March 22, 2017
Sam Konstanty and Michelle Toro have wrapped up their athletic careers at UT Dallas and are expected to graduate in May with bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering. They will continue their studies at the University this fall after winning NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships.
Each year, the NCAA awards up to 174 postgraduate scholarships to student-athletes in their final year of athletic eligibility who excel in the classroom and on the playing field. The $7,500 scholarships are also awarded based on the students’ campus involvement, community service, volunteer activities and leadership.
Konstanty, a two-time, first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America soccer player, is expected to graduate in May with a degree in mechanical engineering and plans to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at UT Dallas this fall. He is looking to specialize in team learning in the health care industry for disease diagnosis.
“As a student-athlete at UTD, I was introduced to people who weren’t as fortunate as me,” Konstanty said. “Getting involved with SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee) and other campus activities presented me the opportunities to grow and develop my character as a whole. It has helped me live for other people and not just myself.”
“This scholarship is a unique honor that recognizes students who have demonstrated the highest achievement in academics, athletics and community service. ... After meeting with Michelle and Sam, I knew that we had winners in sports, academics and service, and so it was a no-brainer to nominate them. They are each deserving of this honor.”
Last fall, Konstanty led the Comets to the American Southwest Conference title, and was named ASC Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. He also was selected as a Scholar All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, becoming just the third Comet to earn the honor. Konstanty, a three-time Academic All-ASC selection, was the ASC’s Distinguished Scholar-Athlete for men’s soccer twice.
“Sam is a true leader and he uses his voice to positively impact others and promote change,” said Angela Marin, assistant director of athletics/senior woman administrator at UT Dallas. “Throughout his time at UTD, Sam has assisted in and led many community service endeavors, and was a role player in the University-produced public service announcement for Comet Voice and the ‘It’s On Us!’ campaign. He has assisted with toy drives for the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, adopted ‘Angels’ from Hope’s Door and helped run canned food drives for Minnie’s Pantry.”
Last fall, Konstanty and his teammates spent time at the Austin Street Homeless Shelter, which helps more than 500 individuals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area each night. They cleaned more than 500 cots, painted the shelter and organized its clothing area.
“Sam is one of the most selfless young men that I have had the privilege of being around,” Marin said. “He is a Comet through and through, and will represent this university in the best possible way for many years to come.”
Toro, a first-team All-America and first-team Academic All-America volleyball player, is expected to graduate in May with a degree in mechanical engineering. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in business administration at UT Dallas this fall.
“I came into college arrogant on the court and in the classroom and realized as a freshman that I was not the smartest or best at UTD,” Toro said. “I decided then that I wanted to be the best and worked hard. As a sophomore, I realized that I could push through anything and overcome obstacles that are in my way.”
Last fall, Toro was named the ASC East Division Most Valuable Player after leading the Comets to their second straight ASC title and first appearance in the NCAA Division III Regional Finals. She was a two-time All-American and closed her career as the Comets’ all-time leader in blocks and hitting percentage.
“Toro is one of the most academically and athletically decorated student-athletes in UT Dallas history,” Marin said. “She is also a young woman with a generous heart, a strong work ethic and a love for this university.”
Before the 2015 season, Toro and her teammates partnered with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation to “adopt” Kaitlyn Renee Johnson, who is battling leukemia. For the past two years, Kaitlyn has been a part of the team, and Toro has helped plan birthday parties, visits to the hospital and Christmas celebrations.
“The experience with Kaitlyn is unlike any other and has provided a very personal opportunity to view the world through the eyes of a very strong and resilient 6-year-old,” Marin said. “Not only is Michelle a brilliant individual, but she also possesses kindness, a strong work ethic, and is extremely passionate in everything she does.”
Dr. Kurt Beron, UT Dallas’ faculty athletics representative, nominated Konstanty and Toro for the scholarship.
“This scholarship is a unique honor that recognizes students who have demonstrated the highest achievement in academics, athletics and community service,” Beron said. “It represents the type of goal toward which UT Dallas hopes that their graduate school-bound student-athletes will work. After meeting with Michelle and Sam, I knew that we had winners in sports, academics and service, and so it was a no-brainer to nominate them. They are each deserving of this honor.”