Samantha Barton ’10 (Kinesiology) spent her freshman year locked up in her dorm room struggling with homesickness. Barton grew up in Trona, Calif., which has a population of only 2,000, so coming to California State University, Northridge was overwhelming. Her emotions spiraled further out of control when her father’s health declined and she couldn’t return home.
“I felt really helpless and guilty that I couldn’t be there for him,” said Barton.
She buried herself in studying and made good grades. However, her emotional state and life took a more positive turn at the end of her sophomore year when she stopped spending so much time alone and began sharing what she was learning with others. Barton was named a University Scholar, which requires students to work with a faculty mentor on a special project. Barton and her advisor and mentor, assistant kinesiology professor Belinda Stillwell, started going to local elementary schools where they offered workshops to teachers to help them improve the quality of their physical education programs.
“I realized I had been missing the point by not taking my skills and knowledge outside the classroom and using them to benefit others,” she said.
Barton joined the University Ambassador program, helped found the first Physical Education Club on campus, became a peer mentor for the College of Humanities and volunteered to coach volleyball and basketball at Winnetka Park. She was involved in activities on and off campus and maintained a 3.99 grade point average.
President Jolene Koester nominated Barton for the 2010-11 William Randolph Hearst/ Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement which she received on Sept. 21. She is one of 23 winners of the Hearst award. It provides a $3,000 scholarship to students who have demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardships and have attributes of merit including superior academic performance, exemplary community service and significant personal achievements.
“Ms. Barton’s story exemplifies the kind of transformative impact a quality institution like Cal State Northridge can have on students,” said President Koester. “In Ms. Barton’s case, with the support and guidance of faculty and staff, she found opportunities to grow and realize her full potential by becoming involved, engaging in community service and developing her leadership skills. Ms. Barton is an exceptional student who also is representative of the many outstanding students at the university.”
Barton is currently enrolled in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education’s teaching credential program. Her future plans include obtaining a master’s degree in kinesiology and teaching elementary or middle school children. She continues to coach, mentor and conduct workshops at elementary schools while holding down two jobs: working at the Oviatt Library Teacher Curriculum Center and with children who are on the autism spectrum.
Attending the lunch honoring the William Hearst Scholars with her parents was an experience Barton will never forget. Each scholar representing one of the 23 CSU campuses told their individual stories and spoke of the hardships they had overcome to succeed academically.
“I’ve realized that as a teacher you have an opportunity to impact your students’ lives,” Barton said. “I want to instill in children and young people a love for physical education and to share with them what I learned about myself at CSUN. By helping others around me, I learned to help myself. I’m not homesick anymore.”