Thursday – November 21, 2019
MATC Tennis, Basketball Advance to NJCAA Divisions I and II, Allowing the College to Offer Athletic Scholarships
Kristin Kellerman, mother of MATC basketball player Will Kellerman, who was killed in a tragic accident last fall, hugs basketball player Jarreyon Johnson after the announcement was made about MATC's tennis and basketball teams moving to Divisions I and II in the National Junior College Athletic Association, allowing students to receive athletic scholarships. Kristin and her husband Brian Kellerman launched the Opportunity 34 Foundation in memory of Will and donated $40,0000 to MATC for basketball scholarships.
Milwaukee Area Technical College recently announced that MATC will transition men's and women's basketball teams from Division III to Division II play. The men's and women's tennis teams will begin their debut season this fall as Division I teams in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). The change gives the college the opportunity to award athletic scholarships and offers MATC a competitive advantage in recruiting student athletes.
"We believe in what MATC does, we believe in Dr. Martin and her team. It is a perfect fit for us. The kids we want to support are at MATC."
-- Nathaniel Lynn, executive director, Al Hurvis/ADAMM Foundation
MATC planned the move toward Division II and Division I play as part of larger effort to enhance student life opportunities at MATC. The team is part of the North Central Community College Conference.
(l to r) MATC President Dr. Vicki J. Martin, Kristin Kellerman, Brian Kellerman and former MATC basketball player Kenny Foster on stage at the athletics announcement May 3.
College Partners Helped Make the Move Possible
College partners were critical in making the move happen. They include Kristin and Brian Kellerman, the parents of MATC basketball player Will Kellerman, who was killed in a tragic car accident in November. The Kellermans formed the Opportunity 34 Scholarship Fund as a tribute to their son, (https://opportunity34.org) . They anticipated a creating small scholarship fund to help students from Will's alma mater, Verona Area High School, but were amazed to receive donations from more than 1,000 individuals totaling $194,000.
The Kellermans decided to donate $40,000 to the MATC Foundation, Inc., for athletic scholarships because MATC meant so much to their son.
"Will always wanted his friends and teammates to have a chance, to be part of a team. We thought that if Will can't be physically present to be that encouragement, Opportunity 34 could," Kristin Kellerman explained at the May 3 announcement.
She said the scholarships "recognize perseverance and passion." She continued, "We are so thrilled that the foundation is making its first gift to the last place he that Will played basketball. Will was only here a few short months, but he was the happiest we had seen him in a long time. He was given another opportunity."
Kellerman went on to praise MATC Men's Basketball Coach and Athletic Director Randy Casey, Will's teammates, teachers and his classmates, and to talk about the sense of family and connection Will felt in the short time he attended MATC.
MATC Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management Johnny Craig spoke at the athletics announcement.
"Big Step for Athletic Department"
Casey called the announcement "a big step for our athletic department. It would not be possible without the support of Dr. Martin, (MATC President Dr. Vicki J. Martin), the institution as whole and our external partners. This is just another way that MATC and its partners continue to invest in the young men and women in our community and beyond to give them a true experience without financial worry."
Casey also recognized support from the Al Hurvis/ADAMM Foundation, which helped MATC develop tennis teams and offers independent scholarships to student athletes interested in tennis. The foundation also supports the MATC Promise for students attending MATC direct from high school and college automotive programs.
"We believe in what MATC does, we believe in Dr. Martin and her team. It is a perfect fit for us. The kids we want to support are at MATC," said Nathaniel Lynn, executive director of the foundation.
A sense of athletic teams as family was pervasive throughout the announcement. Former MATC basketball player Kenny Foster spoke about the journey he and classmate Larry Mitchell had playing for Coach Casey a decade ago. Mitchell had lost both his parents, and Foster came from a broken family.
“Will always wanted his friends and teammates to have a chance, to be part of a team. We thought that if Will can’t be physically present to be that encouragement, Opportunity 34 could."
-- Kristin Kellerman, Opportunity 34 Foundation, mother of Will Kellerman
"We were looking for a place to call home," Foster said. "We came from Chicago to Milwaukee to play basketball for Coach Casey and the other MATC coaches. They welcomed us with open arms. We learned a lot of life lessons. What we learned was bigger than basketball. They taught us about accountability and effort."
MATC basketball players and managers were on hand to celebrate the announcement that the team would be playing in the NJCAA Division II next fall and the establishment of athletics scholarships.
Improving the MATC Student Experience
Improving the MATC student experience was addressed by both President Martin and MATC Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management Johnny Craig.
"Today's announcement is the latest in a series of commitments that we have to our students and their successes," Martin said, citing new housing options for students near the Downtown Milwaukee and Mequon Campuses; access to basic health care services; and a resource center which links students to community services including a food pantry, mental health care and drivers' license recovery.
Bango of the Milwaukee Bucks was on hand for the announcement. The Bucks are more than just neighbors for the college's Downtown Milwaukee Campus. The team supports academic scholarships at the college and approximately 200 MATC apprentices worked on the new Bucks arena.
Visit the new Stormers' website at: matcstormers.com