LYNN — Most people never think they’re going to meet their biggest idol, but Allana Barefield did. And it didn’t end there.
The Lynn native and Lynn English graduate (class of 2015) grew up idolizing Beyoncé Knowles. Last year, during an NBA All-Star party that Barefield and her friends attended last minute, she came face-to-face with the singer and thought her biggest dream was fulfilled. That was until she found out she was named one of eight recipients of the Homecoming Scholars Award for the 2018-2019 academic year, a merit program founded by Beyoncé as part of her BeyGOOD campaign. On Monday, it was announced that Barefield was chosen as the only student to represent her school, Xavier University, which is located in New Orleans.
“I woke up, just a typical day, trying to catch up on my news and I get a notification from someone congratulating me and I had no clue what was going on,” said Barefield. “Then I saw the press release of the winners and I was like my name can’t be on this, this isn’t real, there’s no way.”
Being the informed journalism student that she is, Barefield immediately logged onto Beyoncé’s official website to double check the news. There it was, her name, first on the list of recipients. The rising senior said she was at a loss for words when she saw her name and it put everything into perspective for her. Barefield knows that getting the scholarship itself proves the hard work and long hours she put into her education have paid off, but getting it from her biggest idol makes it even more special.
“Getting this from her, someone I always looked up to and watched on TV as a kid while trying to nail her dance moves, even still to this day, is truly special,” she said. “Her voice gives me goosebumps and if I’m going through a hard day, I always put her on and it’s my getaway.”
To qualify for the $25,000 merit scholarship, candidates must submit a personal essay of their choice and have at least a 3.5 GPA. Not only did Barefield submit an essay, she also attached a portfolio of all her work and community service as well. Her 3.6 cumulative GPA and her essay about ESPN sports journalist Jemele Hill and the similar upbringing they share clearly caught the attention of Beyoncé and her team.
In her essay, Barefield talked about Hill’s continuous efforts of not backing down as a woman of color in the sports broadcasting industry and how they both started their careers in high school with the National Association of Black Journalists. She compared their lives, their pasts, and their roots. For Barefield her own roots may be tied to Lynn, but her father’s, who died during her sophomore year of high school, are tied to New Orleans, which played a huge role in her choosing to attend Xavier University.
“I love where I’m at and it feels as though his spirit is here with me every day in New Orleans,” she said. “When I got the scholarship I thought maybe my dad’s smiling down on me. Hopefully I’m making him proud.”
Barefield looked up to the former Destiny’s Child member, and to her late father, Al Barefield, as well. The father-daughter duo shared a mutual bond over their love of Beyoncé, even having “Love On Top” as the last song they listened to together. Her father was a writer himself, which is why after he died she decided to pursue a career in journalism and apply for the New England Journalism program that was held at Regis College. Barefield was invited afterward to join the NABJ’s high school program, and attends their convention every year.
Linda Barefield couldn’t be prouder of her youngest daughter. The former Lynn English High School librarian said Allana and her older sister Carmen both got their writing skills and love of music from their father. The mother of two thinks it’s great what Beyoncé is doing for black universities and colleges, given they are so underfunded.
“Al would be proud of her,” said Linda Barefield. “He’s looking down and seeing his girls both achieving in writing.”
Along with her mother and older sister, Barefield credits two of her college professors, Sheryl Kennedy-Haydel and Shearon Roberts, for getting her where she is today. She said the two Xavier University professors are like second mothers to her and they care about their students and the futures they hold.
“It doesn’t end here,” she said. “If anything getting this scholarship just means I need to continue to work harder.”
Since the announcement of the scholarship recipients, five out of the eight have contacted each other and talk daily in a group message, said Barefield. The Lynner is amazed at how one person they all idolize was able to bring together a group of people who all have separate goals, but a similar work ethic. When Barefield saw her “Queen Bey” in person at the NBA party, hosted by Solange Knowles in New Orleans last year, she knew she had to say something, even if Beyoncé didn’t hear her.
“I just started talking about how beautiful she is, inside and out, and how much she means to me,” said Barefield. “She wasn’t looking up, but I saw Jay Z right behind her, smiling at everything I was saying so I continued talking and said, “Thank you so much for your music and for getting me through losing my dad. She looked right at me and said “I’m sorry for your loss and thank you for being a committed fan.”
“I’ll forever have that moment to remember,” she said.
Before the start of her final year of undergrad, Barefield is finishing up her internship as a sports broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Times. She has also held internships with the Boston Globe, New York Times, the Courier-Journal, and a number of television stations. She hopes to continue to further her career, given it’s an industry that she has grown to love.
“I want to be a reporter of color who matters,” she said. “I don’t want to be silent on the sidelines. I want to be the first responder telling the stories of others, and doing so in a clear, concrete, and accurate way. I want to really make sure my work speaks for itself and people can feel something and connect to my articles.”