Student-Athlete Slam Dunk for Wildcat Leslie Hodges '24

Team picture of Leslie Hodges '24

For Leslie Hodges ’24, numbers have always been easier than words. In second grade, she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Although the main cause of dyslexia is not known, it’s considered a genetic disorder with no cure. “I’ve always read on a lower grade level than I should have. School’s never been my thing,” Hodges said.

But she seems to have found her "thing" at Johnson & Wales Charlotte.

The Culinary Arts associate degree student and athlete who struggles to read has a 3.96 grade point average, is one of three women’s basketball players named to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National All-Academic Team and was named National Student-Athlete of the Year. She said, “I came to JWU for the culinary program. The dyslexia doesn’t bother me as much. It’s all about techniques and numbers.” She doesn’t think of dyslexia as a disability, just another thing the power forward has to power through.

Peak Performance

When Coach Jill Dunn, who was named Division II National Coach of the Year, joined JWU she quickly realized Hodges’s talents on and off the court, which is why she nominated her for Student-Athlete of the Year.

Basketball star Leslie Hodges takes a shot

Coach Dunn remembered, “Leslie completed her internship first semester. This was probably the busiest time of year for her to do an internship while trying to participate on the basketball team. She was required to be at her internship job Monday thru Friday from 7am-4pm. She would then come straight into practice from 4-6pm. She never complained, even though I know it was very difficult on her at times. She was a warrior!”

It wasn't just stellar grades that helped Hodges stand out: Students must also show community service and student involvement. “Chef Michael Calenda knows someone who runs a summer kids camp at Lake Como in Pennsylvania. I left home in Georgia and worked in the kitchen, helping feed meals to 800-plus campers. During my off time, I volunteered to help referee basketball games and teach agility training. At school, I volunteered for Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, and I help clean and plant in The COOP (JWU urban garden),” Hodges said.

Hodges and her team watched the virtual awards ceremony from Coach Dunn’s home, talking and joking around, until Hodges said she heard a familiar GPA ... and then a culinary mention … and her community service. She told the team, “I think this is me,” and everyone got silent. She admitted, “It was very unreal.”

Post-Season Game Plan

After a successful year on the court, the women’s basketball team made it to the Final Four and lost in overtime in the semi-final game. Still, there’s never a dull moment: In the fall, she’ll start on her bachelor’s degree in Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship. In the meantime, the sophomore is focusing on her current “challenges.” She joked, “These days it’s just the usual teenage drama.”

Apply to JWU

Visit JWU