Feb. 21, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois University softball player Jennifer Barnett is one of 30 NCAA softball student-athletes named a candidate for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. Barnett, a four-year starter for NIU, certainly exemplifies those characteristics.
"JB is definitely an outstanding ambassador for our program," said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. "She's getting it done on and off the field. Being able to graduate with a nursing major is a big attribute to her and her hard work and what it takes in time management. She has put some personal priorities to the side knowing that her professional and softball careers are at the forefront of her life right now. She has done a great job of juggling it all."
The Huskie first baseman is active in both the DeKalb-Sycamore communities as well as in her hometown of Indianapolis. Barnett and the Huskie softball team work closely with Hope Haven, a shelter for battered women, and participate in the YMCA's annual Halloween Bash, playing games with area children. During the Christmas season, Barnett collected canned goods for the Salvation Army and purchased Christmas gifts for a family as part of the Adopt-a-Family program.
Over the summer, she and her teammates assisted the local Kiwanis chapter selling corn at DeKalb's annual Cornfest. The Huskies also connect with the elderly in the community by playing bingo with residents of a DeKalb-area retirement home. Barnett does not just limit herself to planned team projects. In the fall, she organized a team visit to the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Her community service roots began at an early age. As a freshman at Roncalli High School, Barnett, who is majoring in nursing, began volunteering at Riley Hospital for Children, serving as a contact person for the patient's parents. Barnett's biggest job at the hospital, where she continues to volunteer when she is home, was organizing and operating the hospital's "magic castle" cart. She was responsible for taking the cart filled with games, toys and puzzles throughout the various floors of the hospital, including the cancer and burn units. She would deliver the toys and spend time playing with the patients. She earned the Indiana University Health pin for accumulating over 1,000 hours of community service at the hospital. She also works in the Lord's Pantry, handing out food and clothes to the poor in downtown Indianapolis.
While Barnett has accomplished a great deal both in DeKalb and Indianapolis, she is particularly proud of her relationship with an autistic girl from her high school. Using trips to the mall as an incentive, she helped teach the young woman how to count money, when it was believed she could never learn to handle that task. Barnett has also taught the young lady how to read and motivates her to exercise.
Barnett has battled injuries and undergone two surgeries during her career to stay on the field. A team leader on and off the diamond, she enters the 2013 season as one of four team captains for the Huskies. She earned second-team All Mid-American Conference honors as a utility non-pitcher in 2012. Barnett, who was named to the MAC All-Freshman Team in 2010, earned her second conference honor by ranking ninth in the league in batting with a .357 batting average and fifth on the team in hits with 41. She finished 2012 with a .417 slugging percentage and a .413 on base percentage. She played in 47 games, starting 41, playing predominantly at the designated player spot.
Already this season, she earned Mid-American Conference Player of the Week accolades after her performance at the Getterman Classic. Barnett garnered all-tournament team honors after batting .385 in helping lead NIU to a 3-2 opening weekend.
Central Michigan's Kara Dornbos joins Barnett as the only two student-athletes from the MAC selected as a candidate.
Barnett and the Huskies return to the diamond this weekend when the Huskies travel to Boca Raton, Fla. to compete in the FAU "Strike-Out Cancer" Tournament. NIU opens the tournament against North Florida with first pitch set for 8 a.m. CT. Fans can follow all the action live via Gametracker at NIUHuskies.com.