SNC student embraces service
Matt Barnes received inaugural Mel Nicks honor
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
When Matt Barnes began his freshman year at St. Norbert College in De Pere in the fall of 1998, he set a goal that went beyond earning a degree.
"When I graduated from high school I felt like I missed out on some things that I would have liked to experience," he said. "I wanted to embrace every opportunity in college. I feel that I did a good job getting involved in every aspect I could."
Barnes, a business major has been involved both on campus and in the community.
At St. Norbert, he has served as an orientation mentor, a host to future students visiting campus, a member of the college Republican Club and a member of the Green Knights men's soccer team.
His volunteer efforts include assisting at Teen Night for the YMCA, coaching girls' soccer at West De Pere High School, his alma mater, performing various duties at the Crossroads Homeless Shelter and ringing bells for the Salvation Army during the holiday season.
Barnes' service earned him the Mel Nicks Award from St. Norbert College. The leadership honor is named for the late Mel Nicks, a faculty member for 26 years, coach and athletic director at the college.
"It is a huge honor, said Barnes. "I never go out trying to get honors, but the award did allow me to reflect on the things I've done here and it is always nice when someone recognizes the things you do."
"When I received the award I was really happy to meet some members of his (Nicks) family," he continued. "They got to put a face with my name. I learned that Mel Nicks embodied a lot of what the college offered."
While Barnes set out to be involved in volunteer efforts, he credits the college for making it easy.
"My social group, Tried 'N' True or TNT as it is known, has a service objective," he said. "Most of the social groups at St. Norbert go above and beyond their call for community involvement."
"Service is emphasized in every class I have," he added. "You are encouraged to use what you learned and to use your talents to help someone. It's not hard to get involved here."
Serving as an orientation mentor was a natural fit for Barnes, the son of John and Cathy Barnes of De Pere. His father is the director of Facilities at St. Norbert.
"I said, "I have to do this because I know more about the college than anyone," he said. "Basically you make the freshman feel comfortable and introduce them to the college. I love working with people, talking with them and being there for them."
Barnes plans to attend law school, possibly in Minneapolis or Madison, following graduation in the spring. While he is looking forward to living in a new city, he said he will miss De Pere.
"This is a great place for a family," he said. "I spent my primary school years at Our Lady of Lourdes, which gave me a great head start. My experience at St. Norbert has been incredible. I'm going to miss the people and the sense of community."
He will leave college with no regrets.
"I wanted to change who I was," he said. "I wanted to be more open and available to people. I think I've done that."