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Shanika Peterkin: Parallel Passions Lead to Barton Success

Whether she is making a shot or giving a shot, she handles both with ease. Shanika Peterkin’s two passions are basketball and nursing.

While Peterkin excelled on the basketball court throughout her high school career in Virginia Beach, Va., it was during her formative years, growing up in Jamaica, that she also discovered a deep interest in nursing. She often shadowed her mom, who was a nurse at the local hospital. Peterkin admired the focused dedication and compassion her mom had for her patients, and she decided this was the professional path she, too, wanted to follow.

When it came time to consider colleges, Peterkin searched for schools that offered both basketball and nursing programs. Her high school coach recommended Barton as a likely choice, and Barton coach Wendee Saintsing had shown interest in Peterkin’s skills on the court. So, it wasn’t long before the decision was made, and Peterkin was Barton bound.

She adapted to college life quickly and became a force to be reckoned with on the court. “When I was named defensive player of the year as a freshman, I was really surprised,” Peterkin remembers. “Even though my teammates told me that they were sure that I was going to get the recognition, I was still surprised. It made me realize that I could actually compete at the college level and make an impact during the next few years. And, it also let me know that I could grow as a basketball player. That was a major moment for me.”

Peterkin, quiet by nature, has a bold work ethic and high stamina — traits that have served her well during her Barton Experience. While she owned her role on the basketball court, she struggled early on with her decision to major in nursing. She knew she had the passion, but did she have the ability to tackle the heavy academic load required of nursing majors?

“I thought about changing my major during my freshman year because I had heard Barton’s Nursing program was really hard, but my FYS advisor Angie Walston told me that she believed in me and thought I could handle it,” Peterkin notes. “I was really concerned, but Ms. Walston’s belief in me helped me to believe in myself.”

“As I learned more about Shanika, it became clear that not only her academic ability but also her determination and work ethic would push her toward any goal she set for herself,” Angie Walston, FYS Advisor and Assistant Provost for Academic & Career Planning, shares. “It is a great joy as a first-year advisor to watch students grow and to live out the core principles of the Barton Experience by helping them discover their purpose and believe in themselves.”

Peterkin’s commitment to succeed has served her well on and off the court. She was accepted into the nursing program during her sophomore year, and she has thrived in this academic setting. The clinical experience during her junior nursing year was a particular highlight for her, and her favorite moments were spent in the hospital’s labor and delivery ward, though she admits pediatrics was a close second.

“Shanika is indeed quiet,” explains Nursing Professor Leslie Pittman. “And, as an instructor, it can concern you because you want to know that the student can speak up and advocate for the patient. I don’t have that concern anymore because I have watched Shanika play basketball. She gets a lot of physical contact under the basket, but she keeps going. That’s someone who knows her job, knows it comes with obstacles, but does what she needs to do anyway. That speaks to heart, grit, and determination – all skills she will use as a nurse. I have also watched Shanika talk with the referee during a game. If she can advocate for herself in that kind of situation, she can advocate for a patient.”

Nursing Professor and Academic Advisor Caddie Cowan also notes Peterkin’s tenacity in the classroom. “Shanika is a hard worker in the classroom and the clinical setting. I had the pleasure of having Shanika in my clinical group in the fall of her junior year. It was inspiring to see how eager she was to participate in patient care and use her classroom knowledge.”

Good time management is crucial for Peterkin as she successfully juggles a tight daily regimen that includes conditioning, weight lifting, athletic training, nursing classes, clinicals, basketball practice, and study outside of class.

Women’s Head Basketball Coach Wendee Saintsing validates Peterkin’s academic and athletic efforts, sharing, “Shanika has won every possible award this year that a basketball player can win. She is a very talented and gifted individual both on and off the court. She is committed, passionate, and devoted to success. She’s a hard worker spending countless hours studying for her nursing classes and wants to succeed to follow in her mom’s footsteps. She has two work-study jobs everyday, plus hours that she puts in with basketball. Shanika finds time to do her best and gives her best effort no matter what she’s doing.”

Her athletic achievements this past year were off-the-charts impressive. Peterkin was named the 2019-20 Herff Jones Conference Carolinas Female Athlete of the Year, a Third-Team All-American by the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association and received an honorable mention All-American by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). She earned the 2019-20 Conference Carolinas Women’s Basketball Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year titles and received First-Team All-Southeast Region and all-league recognitions.

As tri-captain of her team, this junior center helped lead the Barton Bulldogs to a 24-6 record this past year, including a 19-3 mark in league play, that secured the team’s second-place rank overall. She and her teammates owned an 11-game winning streak that advanced the Bulldogs to the league tournament championship finals. In addition, Peterkin was honored during her junior year as a five-time league player of the week.

Garnering 18.5 points per game, Peterkin led the team in scoring this past year and topped the conference in both rebounding (12.3 rpg) and blocked shots with 101. Peterkin ranks first in Barton’s program history in blocks (343) and became a 1,000-point club member in the last game of the 2019-2020 season.

As she prepares for her senior year in nursing and her final year on the Bulldog basketball court, Peterkin shares, “Barton has provided me with the guidance and tools that have prepared me far beyond what I expected coming in as a new student. I have grown and matured so much since my freshman year, and with that maturity has come a new perspective. I have had a chance to see upperclassmen succeed once they completed their degrees at Barton, and their successes have encouraged me to set high goals and expectations that I could not have imagined my freshman year. I am learning new things every day and how to apply them in the professional setting.

“Yet, what I value most about my Barton Experience are my professors, my coaches, and my teammates,” Peterkin adds. “I know they support me, and they will always be there when I need them.”