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