Volunteer work defines swimmer’s SHU experience
On a Sunday afternoon in South Orange, few people wander campus, especially in the rain.
However, for Seton Hall swimmer Emily Barnard, trudging through the rain after dealing with car issues, all the while just acclimating back after a weekend competition in West Virginia the night before, was just the story of another hectic weekend in the life of the student-athlete.
Barnard is not crazy, though; in fact some might think of her as a superhero.
She balances more than 20 hours a week of practice with her studies and still manages to be an aid to those in need, while volunteering at local organizations.
“Basically, all of our volunteering is through Roberto [Sasso]; he organizes it,” Barnard said. “He’s the head of what’s called the H.A.L.L. Program [which] stands for helping athletes learn to be a leader.”
Junior Aitana Robinson, another member of the swim team who volunteers alongside Barnard, says some of the volunteer efforts performed by the team vary from playing sports with kids in the recreation center on campus to being involved in a pen pal program with students in Newark. These programs allow the Seton Hall swimming and diving teams to not only serve their community, but also connect with the people in it on a closer level.
Barnard is a junior enrolled in Seton Hall’s “4 + 2 year” elementary and special education program, along with speech-language pathology. With her eyes set on a future career as a special education teacher and speech pathologist, Barnard says she mostly volunteers at events with children, as it helps her prepare for what he future could potentially hold.
She recounts some of her experiences with this program from reading to students in elementary schools to playing sports with autistic children.
“We try to do the things on campus, so we always do the Relay for Life,” Barnard says. “We organize a team for the Autism Speaks walk in North Jersey and that’s in Nomahegan Park in Cranford; we’ve done that two years in a row.”
Robinson mentioned how Barnard not only spread word and raised donations for the Autism Speaks walk, but that Barnard actually advocated for the team to take part in the first place.
The swim team not only goes great lengths to support people in the community, but does so to support each other.
Barnard makes clear that the swim team operates like a family in that respect.
“You constantly have 40 people who are looking out for you,” Barnard said. “If you need anything, run into anything, there’s always somebody that, you know, you could talk to about it and have an answer.”
Robinson describes Barnard as a warm-hearted, caring, inclusive and determined individual.
“She always looks out for the little guy to make sure everyone’s included and to make sure that everyone is participating,” Robinson said.
Whether it’s school-work, practice, a meet or helping those in need, Barnard is constantly making an impact.
“[Volunteering] means a lot especially with the ones with the kids,” Barnard said. “They think you’re like this idol, like you just go to Seton Hall and you’re like this superhero and it’s kind of funny.”
Making the most of her opportunity, Barnard admits she is enjoying her time at the Hall. Studying to be a teacher, it is safe to say some lessons could be learned from her generosity and caring nature.
“Being an athlete, the opportunities it’s given, volunteering and kind of giving back; it’s just awesome to be able to do,” Barnard said.
Division one athletes are presented with an opportunity and a platform to make a difference in their communities. While some choose not to get involved, that has not been the case for Barnard. She has taken full advantage of her platform to get involved and make a difference in the community.
Being an athlete is more than going out and performing on gameday, something Barnard has displayed in her time at Seton Hall.
Andrea Keppler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @keppler_andrea.