Southern Athlete Erika Barbera Receives U.S. Marine Corps All-American Award

Apr 17, 2019
Courtesy of: Southern Regional Athletics Erika Barbera (second from left) on April 8 was presented with the U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis All-American Award and will attend a four-day camp and celebration at the Battles Won Academy in Washington, D.C., with her mentor, Jenna Lombardo (second from right).

Erika Barbera remembers Oct. 29, 2012 very well.

“My family stayed on the Island for Hurricane Sandy, and it was a scary experience,” said the Southern Regional High School junior, who at the time was a fifth-grader at Beach Haven School. “But, at the same time, it was pretty interesting to see how it all unfolded and the power of a storm like Sandy.

“We watched as the water kept rising around our house, and when it finally got up to our living space we had to put on waders and wade through the flooding to a neighbor’s house that was on pilings. And there’s a marina at the end of our street, and I could see all the boats and their moorings being lifted off the docks, and then they started floating out into the bay or crashing into each other. Boats were everywhere. It was really crazy.

“But I fell asleep soon after the power went out – that was about 9:30 p.m. – and when I woke up the next morning all the water was gone. It was such a crazy experience, but it changed my life and taught me not to take things for granted.”

Their home destroyed, the Barbera family was displaced and Erika ended up spending the next couple of years at Eagleswood Elementary, before arriving to Southern Regional Middle School and then the high school.

But despite the harrowing experience, Erika turned the negatives in her life into positives, maintaining excellent grades in school, becoming a reliable leader and hard-working, multiple-sport athlete. Those attributes led Southern administrator Joe DiPietro and Athletic Director Chuck Donohue Jr. to nominate Erika for the U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis All-American program, which “recognizes high school students who face life’s battles with the conviction and determination to succeed,” according to the award website.

“DiPietro and Donohue nominated 10 of us for the All-American Award,” she said. “As part of the application process, we had to write an essay and I wrote about my experience going through Sandy and overcoming the negatives of being displaced and all that occurred with that situation.”

On April 8, Marine Corps representatives presented Erika with the All-American Award prior to the Southern girls lacrosse game. She was selected as New Jersey’s female representative – one male and one female student are picked from each state – to attend the Battles Won Academy in Washington, D.C., as part of a four-day camp and celebration honoring the award recipients in July.

The website states: “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 and will be recognized for their achievements at the exclusive Battles Won Academy.”

As part of the experience, each All-American is invited to bring a mentor, and Erika chose Southern field hockey coach Jenna Lombardo to accompany her for the special event.

“I guess all my hard work has paid off,” she said. “It’s nice to be recognized.”

— David Biggy

(Photo by: David Biggy)
(Photo by: David Biggy)
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