This past month, BGA senior Graci Semptimphelter was announced as a recipient of the Jack Diller Education Award, where she will receive $2,500 toward her college education.
The Jack Diller Education Award has given funds to upcoming college students for over 15 years. In 2022, $10,000 was awarded to four students in the Middle Tennessee area, selected from 150 seniors from 75 different high schools.
The Nashville Predators Foundation sponsors the award, and to be eligible, a student must "display leadership qualities in the classroom and/or inspirational qualities on the athletic field," and they must "demonstrate the value of education, good work ethic, and community outreach," according to the award's website. Also, a student must have a grade point average of 3.0 or greater from sophomore year to senior year.
The award is inspired by former Nashville Predators President Jack Diller, who was known for his love of the community and city of Nashville.
When it comes to community service, Semptimphelter has been practicing caring for her surrounding community for a long time. Specifically, she enjoys serving those diagnosed with autism and special needs. Her journey with this began when she was just four years old when her family adopted her brother, Cross, who was diagnosed with autism. Semptimphelter became his peer role model, which means she would work alongside him and lead him by example in how to do tasks.
"This experience as a peer role model taught me patience and how to work with people with special needs, and it gave me passion and inspiration to help and defend those with special needs," Semptimphelter said.
It wasn't long before she began doing the same thing for kids with special needs at her school. In serving kids at her school, Semptimphelter started to see a need present that she wanted to help fill.
"My perspective continued to expand, and the inequity that these children faced really bothered me," Semptimphelter said.
"At this young age, I recognized how these children deserved to be treated and how to work with them appropriately."
It was then that she and her mom created what eventually became their non-profit organization, 1Team1Goal. They began by hosting an event at a local youth football league called Athletes for Autism, where they raised money for those with autism to receive equal and quality education in the local public school system.
After this event, the organization only grew, and now, 1Team1Goal is an official non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to special needs children and adults interested in football, cheer, dance, and the arts.
Semptimphelter feels that her greatest impact began when she met a girl named Lily, who has Down syndrome and is in the organization's dance and cheer programs. Lily and Semptimphelter have had many experiences together over the past nine years and have grown a close friendship.
"While I know my impact on Lily as an older role model has been significant to her growth and ability to interact with her peers, I think Lily has impacted me more than I ever could for her," Semptimphelter said.
"As a student-athlete and as someone who is always on the go, Lily has been a source of light and consistency that I have needed. When I was struggling with school or sports, Lily was always there to make me smile and remind me of the bigger picture."
As Semptimphelter moves forward to Ohio Wesleyan University, where she will play basketball and double major in Business and Spanish, she plans to continue serving with 1Team1Goal. She will take over more of the online portions of the organization while her mom takes care of other responsibilities locally. Eventually, she hopes to use her studies in college to open a restaurant and coffee shop that will employ those with special needs.
Semptimphelter sees her community service as experiences that have grown and strengthened her as a person. Her deep relationships with her brother, Cross, and her friend, Lily, have largely impacted her vision for her life.
I really cannot [talk about my community service] without paying tribute to Lily and Cross. Having both of these amazing kids in my life has completely changed the course of my life, and I am eternally grateful for them," Semptimphelter said.
"At ages 13 and 16, I do not think they understand the incredible impact they've had on me, and I am not sure that they ever will."