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Sarah Panzau, former NJCAA All-American volleyball standout, was the speaker for the Kishwaukee College Athletics Orientation on August 27. Panzau suffered life-threatening injuries, including having her left arm severed, in a car accident caused by driving while intoxicated. She spoke to the athletes about the importance of making good choices. Pictured after the presentation are, L to R, Karen Wiley, Athletic Director at Kishwaukee College; Sarah Panzau; and Sedgwick Harris, Vice President of Student Services.

Sarah Panzau returns as speaker for KC Athletics orientation

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kishwaukee College Athletics held an on-campus orientation on August 27 for the student athletes that kicked off with the keynote address from Sarah Panzau, former two-time National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) volleyball All-American, on responsibility, choices, and consequences. Panzau had spoken to Kishwaukee Student-Athletes during orientation in 2011 and Athletic Director Karen Wiley invited her back because Panzau’s message is such a powerful one.

Panzau was a heavily recruited high school volleyball player from Belleville, IL who was nationally ranked but, by her own admission, chose a downstate community college over the Division I and II colleges that had recruited her, simply because a boyfriend was attending there. She was a powerful player and team leader until she fell in with the wrong crowd and began using drugs and drinking heavily.

On August 23, 2003, she left a bar with a blood alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit, exited the interstate on a sharply curved ramp with a posted speed limit of 25 mph. She was going 72 mph. Her car flipped four times, ejecting her through the rear window and dragging her body against five guardrail posts. With her left arm severed and the skin of her back and neck ‘road rashed’ off, Panzau was pronounced dead at the scene only to miraculously gasp for one breath. In the ten years since the accident, Panzau has undergone 36 surgeries and is preparing for number 37 this fall.

An active and compelling speaker, Panzau wore a tank top and shorts with her physical scars readily visible as she walked among the athletes and coaches in Jenkins Auditorium. In an emotional presentation, Panzau revealed the pain and regret that the accident—as well as her years of poor choices leading up to it—had caused her and her family. She noted that after the accident, none of her ‘friends’ who had partied with her and allowed her to get behind the wheel that night ever came to the hospital, but her mother, with whom she had had a tumultuous relationship, was by her side for the entire journey of healing.

As she recovered, Panzau found a new calling: presenting to young people from middle school through college-age on the role of personal responsibility, acceptance of the consequences of your actions and the choices everyone is forced to make at one time or another. She exhorted the athletes to never drive after drinking and to call their coaches or family rather than get in a vehicle with someone who had been drinking.

Panzau’s presentation was a strong beginning to the Athletic Orientation. Athletic Director Karen Wiley then had the athletes break into small groups to focus on their upcoming year as student-athletes representing Kishwaukee College. Group discussion topics were: Your Role as a Student-Athlete, led by Sedgwick Harris, Vice President of Student Services; Tips for Student Success, led by SyLinda Menafee, Coordinator of Retention and Student Success; Captains Q&A, led by Kougar team captains; and Student-Athlete Handbook/Signing the Athletic Department Alcohol and Drug Policy, led by Karen Wiley, Athletic Director.

For more information on Kishwaukee College Athletics including schedules and rosters, please visit

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