September 01, 2020
Life is filled with challenges and obstacles that each individual person must cope with daily, and most are out of one’s control.
In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New Jersey and devastated many communities, including Kutztown University freshman Erika Barbera’s hometown of Beach Haven. The storm flooded the streets and severely damaged property, with Barbera’s home, family’s business, and her school feeling the brunt of the superstorm. She had to start over, going to a new school and living in a different place.
“Warrior” is the word used to describe Barbera by her coaches, teachers and teammates. And she proved to be one.
“That was the biggest battle I’ve ever had to go through,” said Barbera on Hurricane Sandy. “Our house, my belongings, my school, our family shop, all gone. It was really scary, just crazy watching how much water was in the streets. And we just knew that our house was being destroyed. We didn’t know what we were going to do.”
Barbera’s commute to school went from a quick walk down the road to a 45-minute drive. A lot changed in her and her family’s lives, but they still had each other and their community to get them through.
“After that devastation and after all of that change happened, the rebuilding of it all was just amazing to see and be a part of,” said Barbera. “It was hard learning to adjust to a new environment, new school, at such a young age. I kind of grew up quickly. But even with all of the bad that had happened, there was also a lot of good that came out of it. It’s about how you treat every day and the situations that you face in life.”
Seeing the help and support her community received following the storm, Barbera gravitated toward helping other people as years went on. She’s learned to cope with challenges that life throws at her, and works with other people in the same light. Barbera helped run an autism walk while she was at Southern Regional High School.
“It was such a cool experience,” Barbera said. “The walk was to get kids with autism and their families out to have some fun and just express themselves and enjoy the day.”
Recognition for her efforts
For her strength and courage, along with the hard work put into the classroom and on the field hockey and lacrosse fields, Barbera received the distinguished honor of earning the Marine Corps. award as a Semper Fidelis All-American.
The Semper Fidelis All-American Program recognizes high school students who face life’s battles with the conviction and determination to succeed. These students embody the same fighting spirit that Marines stand for by taking on the challenges of succeeding academically while bettering their communities and excelling in athletics and extracurricular activities. They have turned obstacles into victories through drive and passion.
The criteria for the nominees: be a junior in high school, have a 3.5 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale, or equivalent, be active in community service, play a competitive team sport, and hold a student or community leadership position.
“When I found out that I was selected for the honor, I was in complete shock,” said Barbera. “To learn that there was only one female and one male in all of the state of New Jersey to be recognized, it was just crazy. It felt great to know that hard work does pay off in the end. It was such a unique and amazing experience and I’m so glad my family and friends were there with me to receive it. It was something I will never forget.”
Barbera was a three-year letter winner at Southern. She finished her senior season with 18 goals and 14 assists, and her team went 18-3 overall. Barbera was a South Conference and Shore Conference First Teamer and a team captain. In the classroom, she received NFHCA High School National Academic Squad Scholar of Distinction honors and was a member of the National Honor Society, World Language Honor Society and the high honor roll.
Committing to Kutztown University
Barbera committed to head coach Marci Scheuing and the Golden Bears during her junior year of high school. After participating in a clinic and touring campus, she knew right away that Kutztown University was where she wanted to call home.
“I knew I wanted to play field hockey in college,” said Barbera. “Coach Scheuing had been in touch with me for a while [before I committed]. We took a tour of campus and I just instantly fell in love with it. After the field hockey clinic, I talked to coach Scheuing and she asked me to come back. So, a week later, I returned and then committed a few days later. I didn’t want to look at any other schools. I knew where I wanted to be.”
Scheuing couldn’t be happier to have Barbera as a part of her program.
“Erika is an outstanding student-athlete who we are very excited to have at Kutztown,” said Scheuing. “She is the total package in every way. She is a great person, an outstanding athlete, and gives back to her community. I was inspired by her story and it just shows how resilient and tough she really is.”
Kutztown had its first team gathering last week since arriving on campus for the fall semester, so Barbera was able to put names to faces and meet her new teammates. She caught up with some upperclassmen who coached at past clinics, and also became acquainted with classmates and dormmates that will be neighbors.
“The girls on the team were a huge reason why I wanted to play at Kutztown,” Barbera said. “Everyone is so welcoming and friendly and are just amazing people. You see them and you just instantly have a smile on your face. I just recently met the entire team since getting to campus and it just feels like I’ve known them my whole life. It’s a big family. They take you in as one of their own family members.”
So, with almost two weeks as a college student under her belt, Barbera, who is majoring in Biology: Allied Health, is enjoying her time at Kutztown, getting to know teammates, classmates and everyone around campus.
“I love meeting new people,” Barbera said. “It’s really cool being in a residence hall with mainly other student-athletes and meeting different people and hearing about their backgrounds and different experiences. Everyone has a unique story to share and I enjoy listening to them.”
By C.J. Hemerly, assistant sports information director