Published on February 18th, 2010

Allison Barnwell named NEAA Student of the Year


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RONN HEMSTOCK, Courtesy Photo

Seward High School student Allison Barnwell accepts the National Education Association of Alaska's Outstanding Student of the Year award in Anchorage on Jan. 29.

Allison Barnwell is a busy young woman. She's enrolled in a heavy load of chemistry and AP calculus courses, practicing for the ski team and applying for colleges.

And, oh yeah, she also regularly volunteers her time around the community.

Barnwell, a senior at Seward High School, was named National Education Association of Alaska's Outstanding Student of the Year at the Kenai Peninsula Education Association President's delegate assembly last month.

She was nominated by high school teacher Ronn Hemstock.

"She's done so much in four years and geez, she's collecting money right now for the Haiti relief effort," Hemstock said. "She always has her ear to the ground to find out what she can do to make her world and community a better place."

She's also very humble.

"It sounds like I do a lot but it doesn't seem as much as it turns out on paper," Barnwell said during a phone interview from her Seward home, where she lives with her siblings and mother and father, both who work as teachers in the Seward school system.

Her parents, she said, brought her up to help out whenever she could. The key is to balance your schedule and not procrastinate.

"Of course, I'm always procrastinating," she said with a laugh.

She credits Seward schools with much of her success. The closely-fit atmosphere offers students the chance to bond with instructors. As a result, students are more readily matched to opportunities, such as when she traveled to Washington D.C. for a coastal summit program her freshmen year.

"One of the things about this small school that I really love is that people can see who you really are," she said.

That Washington trip opened up her life.

"Before then, I was really shy," she said. "But we gave our presentation and displayed our knowledge, and it was really cool to be able to educate people."

As a sophomore, Barnwell lobbied with Alaska State Representatives as part of the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action group. While there, she found her political voice.

"Being able to talk to them about what really mattered and stating our opinions and knowing that they actually cared about what I said, I really took that to heart," she said. "I think that was the part that meant the most, that I was able to affect change."

This year, she's helping out with the elementary school's recycling program, fund-raising for the Nordic ski team, was the cross country team captain and putting her time in at various community events and projects.

Seward High School guidance counselor Maratha Fleming sees Barnwell as a bright student who works hard for the causes she believes in.

"She's soft spoken but has a very strong voice and presence," she said. "She ends up being this leader you don't even notice because she's leading by model."

She also volunteers above and beyond her quota, Fleming added.

Barnwell doesn't see this as unique.

"Volunteering? Why not," she said. "If you have the time, shouldn't you help other people out?

"Besides," she continued. "I think it's fun. I get a good feeling knowing that I helped someone else out."

Cinthia Ritchie can be reached at, or by phone at


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