CSUN student among 23 to receive achievement award

Samantha Barton is one of 23 students across all the CSU’s to receive the William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. Courtesy of Samantha Barton

She is acknowledged as someone who sets the standards in all her classes. Working on her physical education teaching credentials, 22-year-old Samantha Barton’s work ethic and motivation are off the charts.

Her mother Cynthia Barton, said she remembers when her daughter tried to make it across the monkey bars in the playground.

“She would get blisters on her hands every day, but she never gave up,” Cynthia Barton said. “She has always had that drive.”

Barton received her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in physical education in May and returned to CSUN to continue her secondary education. On Sept. 21, she added the ultimate achievement to her resume by receiving the William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.

“The nomination for the award was just thrown at me, but in a good way,” Barton said.

Barton had applied for another scholarship with the Financial Aid and Scholarship Department on campus when she received a call a few weeks later saying her application matched the Outstanding Achievement Award.

“I didn’t know what was going on at the moment,” she said. “I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was to be nominated for this award.”

The CSU system selected 23 students, one from each campus, to receive the award for the 2010-11 school year. Each recipient received a $3,000 scholarship.

Erik Fallis, media relations specialist for the CSU, said the award is given to students who demonstrate financial need, have experienced personal hardships, possess exceptional academic performance, excellent community service and significant personal achievements.

The award is among the highest forms of recognition for student achievement in the CSU system, Fallis said.

Coming to CSUN in Fall 2006 from Trona, California, a town in the Mojave Desert with a population of less than 3,000, Barton said she had a difficult time adjusting. She said she was very involved in high school back home, playing volleyball and softball, running track and being a cheerleader.

During her freshman year at CSUN, Barton said her father developed a long-term illness and spent time in the hospital on life support. Her closeness to her family made it difficult to deal with her father’s illness, as she felt helpless being almost three hours away from home.

“As difficult as it was, I tried to forget about everything going on at home and focus on my school work,” Barton said. “I tried to get more involved on campus and in my department.”

At award reception, she said she listened to the other 22 recipients’ emotional and motivating stories.

“I don’t feel like my story compares to the other recipients,” Barton said. “Others had to overcome being homeless and becoming blind.”

Barton’s mother said her daughter has always been a perfectionist who persevered in whatever she wanted to accomplish.

“Her plans with kinesiology came as a shock,” Cynthia Barton said. “I always expected her to do something less physical because she was a shy child with her head always in a book.”

In high school, Samantha started working as a teacher’s assistant in her mother’s classes, and that is where Barton had a lot of exposure to the field of kinesiology, Cynthia Barton said.

“Kinesiology opened up a lot of doors for her and what she wanted to do,” Cynthia said. “The passion of helping others grew in her as the time she spent in my classroom increased. She saw the feedback and appreciation she was receiving from the students, which compelled her to give back even more.”

Barton not only likes to give back to her community but she likes to test her skills, said Dr. Belinda Stillwell, an associate professor in the kinesiology department. Stillwell said Barton approached her in her office one day and demanded to take an exam in exercise physiology, one of the difficult undergraduate courses in the department. She aced the exam.

“Samantha’s school is definitely her priority, but she never neglects her needs and wants to help others,” Stillwell said. “She realizes the importance of helping others and works harder to give back more.”

Barton volunteers as a peer mentor for students in the College of Humanities and travels to public elementary schools in the area with Stillwell to help build better-quality physical education programs. She used to volunteer as a university ambassador at CSUN and has coached volleyball at Winnetka Park over the summer.

Barton said she hopes to find a teaching job in a public elementary school after obtaining her teaching credentials. Coming back to school to receive her master’s degree is in her future plans, she said.

She added that her goal is to motivate her students, something she feels can be done better with elementary and middle school students.

“Middle school students, especially, have a lot going on,” she said. “There is a really big opportunity to help inspire them.”

She works in the Teacher Curriculum Center in the Oviatt Library on campus and with children with autism in the Ventura County region.

As an undergraduate, she helped created the Physical Education Club and served as the president until her graduation.

“I like the challenge of working with children who have disabilities,” she said. “I love challenges in general and I am always looking for new ways to challenge myself.”