She was an All-American lacrosse player at Dartmouth, both a sport and a school with Native American roots. And today Allison Barlow is assistant director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.
The last time Allison Barlow got together with fellow Dartmouth lacrosse players was in November. She and about 25 other Dartmouth alumnae attended the induction ceremony of their coach, Josie Harper, into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Describing Harper as "the most amazing coach," Barlow adds "she was a great role model - in sports, coaching and management." In addition, she enjoyed Harper's sense of humor and her supply of stock phrases. Her favorite was "If you're going to be wrong, be absolutely wrong," which she has taken as general advice for life, helping her take chances and try unconventional paths.
She was in Josie Harper's first recruited class of lacrosse players. Now Dartmouth's athletic director, Harper was then head lacrosse coach and assistant field hockey coach for the Big Green. Though Barlow had played lacrosse since the seventh grade, it was field hockey for which her school, Tower Hill School of Wilmington, Delaware, was famous. Barlow's teams won two state championships.
Harper came to Tower Hill to look at another player, but recruited Barlow instead. Barlow credits sports for her academic success. "I don't think I would have gotten into Dartmouth without sports, and once there my academics blossomed. Sports was a vehicle for my development as a student."
Her family members had either stayed in Delaware or gone to Penn State while Barlow became the first to go to an Ivy League school. She fell in love with Dartmouth on first sight and her college search was over. As she says, she stood on campus and "it hit my spirit." Her sports career at Dartmouth was successful. She was All-Ivy in field hockey in 1983 and in lacrosse in 1983, 1985, and 1986. In lacrosse she was also Ivy Player of the Year in 1986, and first-team All-American in 1985.
She helped her team to its first Ivy League lacrosse championship. Barlow particularly remembers one nail-biter of a game where the Big Green defeated long-time rival Harvard, 10-9. "It was the most glorious moment," she recounts.
Initially interested in medicine, she tried several majors before settling on English. She feels she missed none of the Dartmouth experience because of sports, in fact doing better during sports seasons than at other times. Sports made her more organized and gave her a good routine. She feels "when you are committed to excelling it crosses over into academics." Her sophomore winter session was spent in Granada, Spain, a highlight of her school years.
Upon graduation, Barlow entered a masters program in Melbourne, Australia, where she studied aboriginal voices in Australian writing, which fueled her interest in native peoples.
Currently Barlow is assistant director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. She obtained a Masters in Public health from Hopkins while working there. Her main focus is developing programs for teens and adolescents. There are three big projects in which she is currently involved. The first is a program for pregnant teens that follows them through the baby's second birthday. Outreach workers are trained to go into homes to address the challenges the young families face.
The second is a suicide-prevention program designed to address the rates of suicide of some tribes, rates that are the highest of any group in the world. Para-professionals are trained to triage and assess young people who attempt suicide. The goal is to help them while trying to establish the root causes of the problem.
Third is the Native Vision program. Nick Lowery, the former NFL player and Dartmouth alum, contacted Barlow about the possibility of creating a football camp for Native youth. This idea has grown into an annual sports and life skills camp. Professional athletes mentor and teach the kids. Currently 800 young people participate in six sports, including lacrosse, a sport with Native American origins. Barlow says "of my projects this one has the most potential to help kids and families."
Fighting such intractable problems can be tough, even for Barlow. She says, "I get discouraged at times. But how could you not do this? In the big picture it feels like there is no other way."
Barlow often draws on the Dartmouth connection. In addition to Nick Lowery, she has recruited numerous other former Dartmouth athletes for Native Vision. When she started a Baltimore recovery program for addicted men she obtained volunteers through the Dartmouth alumni network. She was the community service chair for the Baltimore alumni association for a number of years.
To Barlow, Dartmouth was "a wonderful place to develop into an adult. I felt loved and supported and challenged." She also wonders if Dartmouth's Native American roots might somehow have influenced her career choice, which she finds very satisfying. When asked about her future goals and plans she simply responds "I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing."
— Suzanne Eschenbach