Bethlehem, Pa. - Lehigh softball senior Julie Fernandez has been named one of ten finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award, it was announced Wednesday. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help determine the winner, which will be announced at the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the award honors senior student-athletes, who excel in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition.
"Julie Fernandez is an incredible young woman; her hard work and commitment to excellence definitely show up in the box score," explained Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. "What doesn't show up is just how strong she is as a human being; selfless, compassionate, caring, and always willing to help out a teammate, a classmate, a friend, or a family member. She is certainly most deserving of this national recognition."
Fernandez is one of ten finalists, along with standouts from softball powers such as California, Arizona State, Stanford, Florida, Alabama and Washington. She is the only finalist from the Patriot League.
The finalists were chosen by a media committee from the list of 20 candidates announced in February. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to determine the winner. Fans are encouraged to vote via the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award website through May 14. Fans can cast one vote per day. Fan votes will be combined with media and coaches votes to determine the winner. To participate in fan voting, go here
Fernandez is in the midst of another outstanding season for the Mountain Hawks and leads the team and Patriot League with a .429 batting average through 32 games. She is Lehigh's career leader and second in Patriot League history with 53 doubles, and also stands sixth in League annals with 231 hits entering Wednesday.
Fernandez is already a three-time All-Patriot League selection, a two-time All-Region selection and was the Patriot League's Rookie of the Year in 2009 and its Player of the Year in 2010.
Fernandez has excelled in the classroom, posting a 3.33 grade point average as a Behavioral Neuroscience major while minoring in Spanish. A multi-year member of the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, Fernandez has also received numerous Lehigh Faculty Athletics Council Academic Awards for posting semester GPAs of 3.20 or better. Fernandez earned the 2011 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sport Scholar Award (as named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education) while also garnering Lehigh University's Class of 1904 Scholarship Award. Last spring, Fernandez was named to the inaugural Academic All-Patriot League softball team. She is currently applying to medical schools and aspires to become a pediatrician. She has spent time during the summer shadowing a pediatrician in Santa Monica, Calif., while also participating in research at UCLA Medical Center.
Fernandez has been heavily involved in Lehigh's athletic department, as a Student-Athlete Mentor and as a member of the Lehigh Athletics Leadership Academy. In the Student-Athlete Mentor (SAM) program, Fernandez helped facilitate discussions for the Lehigh P.R.I.D.E. program and served as a resource providing guidance to Lehigh's freshmen throughout the year. In the Leadership Academy, Fernandez graduated from the Emerging Leaders program, where she learned how to be an effective vocal and leader by example on her team and within the Lehigh community; and the Leadership Legacies program where she learned how to interact with coaches and teammates in order to effectively lead a team as a captain.
Fernandez has also been heavily involved in Lehigh's award-winning community outreach C.O.A.C.H. (Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping) program. She has been part of groups that visited local schools to talk to children about the importance of leadership, responsibility and education.
The C.O.A.C.H. program does numerous presentations to student groups in settings ranging from team meetings to school assemblies to sports banquets. They also run sports clinics with an educational theme, group outings to Lehigh athletic events and more. One special event, which Fernandez and the C.O.A.C.H. program have coordinated, is an annual Adopt-A-Family around the holidays. Each Lehigh Athletics team adopts an underprivileged family; they then raise money throughout the semester to purchase holiday presents for their adopted family. The initiative wraps up with an event where all of Lehigh's student-athletes present the gifts to their adopted families. Last year, the Mountain Hawks raised nearly $30,000.
In the offseason Fernandez has volunteered her time as a hitting instructor for girls ages 14-18, teaching hitting technique through practice, drills and mental preparation.
Lowe's, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the winner at the NCAA Women's College World Series, May 31-June 6 in Oklahoma City. For the full release of the 10 finalists from Lowe's, go here
For more on Julie Fernandez, watch the video below which was included in the Patriot League's celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.