LANCASTER — When Paraclete senior soccer player Samantha Barajas was looking for a college to continue her soccer career, she wasn’t looking for anything out of state.
Barajas describes herself as a “family person” and wanted to stay close to home.
But then, Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, just out of Chicago, came calling.
“When (Trinity) reached out to me, I really listened,” Barajas said. “I was like, if God is calling me to go out of state, then maybe it’s the right decision.”
Barajas started talking to Trinity Christian College coach Josh Lenarz and said she got to know him not just as a coach, but as a person.
She took her official visit to the NAIA school in November and the rest is history.
“When I went to go visit, I really fell in love with the people and the whole atmosphere,” Barajas said. “Everyone there is so friendly and I immediately felt like this is the home for me. … Right when I got there I was like, this is beautiful, I know I have to be here.
“It made me feel at home. I’m such a family person and I depend on my family so much. Once I was there, I was like I know I can succeed and do great things here without my family by my side.”
Barajas made it official last Thursday, signing her National Letter of Intent in front of family, friends, coaches, teachers and teammates in the Paraclete library.
When she took her visit, Barajas said everyone told her she came at a good time, because the temperature was in the 40s.
“I’ve been drawn to the cold weather,” she said. “Over there they get four seasons, so I’m excited.”
Barajas played center midfielder for the Spirits this season, helping control the middle while also picking up two goals and two assists along the way.
She said she used to be a defender, so she will play wherever the Trolls need her.
She plans on studying criminal justice. Barajas said she always found it interesting while watching criminal justice related shows growing up.
“I’ve always been drawn to why do they do it,” Barajas said. “I’ve always been drawn to wanting to know the reason why and I know I probably won’t get those answers.
“But just being able to bring justice and closure to families that don’t get that and give back to my community in a way and make it better, I just think that’s a really cool thing to do.”
Barajas will play on an 80% scholarship that is both athletic and academic.
She said she would like to thank her parents, her family and her coaches for helping her get this far.
“My parents because ever since I was little, they never pushed me,” Barajas said. “They’ve always told me, ‘Do what you want and if you feel like it’s the right thing, then continue to do it.’”
Barajas said she couldn’t have earned this college scholarship without her parents, Sandra and Abelardo Barajas.
“I think that all the time and all the sacrifice that’s gone into me playing soccer has made me appreciate it so much, because they’ve sacrificed so much for me,” she said while getting choked up. “I really appreciate them always being my No. 1 supporters, always telling me that it’s OK to feel upset … they’ve always been there to back me up 100 percent. So, I just really want to thank them, but I don’t think words can express how thankful I am for them actually giving me the opportunity to play soccer and get better at it.”
Barajas is also thankful to her Paraclete coaches, head coach Tracey Hill and assistant coach Gary Gill.
“My coaches, especially coach Tracey, because no matter what she’s always been there to help me and tell me that I need to believe in myself and I have the skill that it takes to move on,” Barajas said. “It has been a rough time for me throughout the years, especially with some coaches not really believing in me and I would be like, ‘Oh my God, maybe I can’t do it.’
“But she was always a phone call away to tell me, ‘No, you can’t listen to those people, because those are the people that are gonna try to take you down, but you have to be the one to believe in yourself, because you’re the only one that’s going to make yourself get to that point.’ So, I really owe it to her for the reason that I kept going and pushed myself to prove to those people that I can keep going.”
Barajas can’t wait to start her career at Trinity Christian College to keep proving those people wrong.