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Released July 21, 2005


HATTIESBURG – Since childhood, Katrina Coots knew she wanted to live her life helping others.

It was this same passion for servitude that helped her win the 2005 Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Year Award from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)

Coots, a senior at The University of Southern Mississippi, was selected based on her academics, community service and dedication to the field, according to Andrew Kerins, chair of the NRPA awards committee.

"Katrina stood out as not just an excellent student and active member in her community, but also as a person that is passionate about her work. Her enthusiastic interest in the NRPA and her specific field of interest, therapeutic recreation, made her an easy choice for the award," said Kerins.

Coots, a Port Allen, La., native minoring in psychology, said that therapeutic recreation is the “chosen path” for her because it provides a strong foundation for helping others. "I want to be able to increase others' awareness of their strengths and capabilities in their everyday life," she said.

At 24, Coots is proving that actions truly do speak louder than words. In addition to the NRPA, the 2005 McNair Scholar is a student member of the Mississippi Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA), a student member of the National Therapeutic Recreation Society, a member of the Professional Development Chair of the Recreation Major Club and a member of Gama Beta Phi Honor Society. Coots also volunteers with the Special Olympics. She said God, her family and Southern Miss faculty and staff are the inspirations behind her goodwill.

"My energetic 2-year-old son Phenix and devoted husband Michael inspire me on a daily basis for their desire to learn new things," said Coots. "The School of Human Performance and Recreation has been the biggest influence on my life since I have been at Southern Miss. My professors seem to always challenge me to the fullest and encourage me as I meet the challenges. I have taken those challenges and lessons and have applied them to my personal life, which has helped me reach all of my goals so far," said Coots.

As for present aspirations, upon graduation in December, Coots plans to pursue a master's degree in social work and rehabilitation and then enter into a doctoral program in the field of counseling. Her long-term goals include employment at a clinical health-related state facility as a counselor/administrator and teaching as a college professor.

Dr. Brent Wolfe, former director of the School of Human Performance and Recreation, said he believes Coots' work ethic and character will continue to play a huge role in her success. "As a student, Katrina turns her work in promptly, arrives to class on time, and is prepared for discussion and participation," Wolfe said.

"During a class this last semester, I asked if any students belonged to a professional organization, and Katrina was the only student to raise her hand. When I questioned her about her membership, she responded by saying she was a member of the student branch of NRPA, and she had joined in order to receive the Therapeutic Recreation Journal (the leading journal in our field). As an educator and researcher, this action clearly demonstrated an intense desire to learn and grow as a professional."

Besides a pat on the back, the NRPA will honor Coots with a plaque and free seat at its annual national conference in San Antonio, Texas, in October. Coots will also be rewarded with a $100 stipend for traveling expenses.

To be considered for NRPA's Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Year, one must be a student member of the organization.

For more information, please contact Wolfe at Southern Miss’ School of Human Performance and Recreation at (601) 266-5651.


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July 28, 2005 10:46 AM