Kennadie Jake-Turner just doesn’t feel right unless she’s busy. 14 credits of class, 20 hours of practice and eight hours of NCAA-mandated studying a week and it still gives her too much free time to fill.
“I’ve never been just a volleyball player, I’ve always done all these different things at home so I wanted to get involved,” Jake-Turner said.
On top of the rigors of division one athletics, Jake-Turner has one of the toughest majors on campus (Physiology and Neurobiology on the pre-med track), is involved in the Minority Association of Pre-Med Students and the African-American Cultural Center, and she still wants to get more involved on campus.
It looks like she’ll get her wish this semester, now that her and the rest of the volleyball team aren’t on the road for four days a week.
“Some organizations have meetings at 6 p.m. and I’ll let them know ‘I’m in lab’ and some have things at 12 and I’ll tell them I have practice,” Kennadie said. “But now my time management is better now, and I have time to plan.”
Jake-Turner’s interest in social activism didn’t start the moment she stepped on campus. She attended St. Johns’ School in her native Houston, an elite (and predominantly white) prep school — “you could count on your hand,” the number of black students, Jake-Turner described.
She transferred from her Houston public school and the lack of diversity she found was a surprise, leading her to join the school’s African-American Affinity Group.
“St. Johns was kind of a shock to me because I was used to being in an environment that was always diverse,” Jake-Turner said “It was kinda different, and the AAAG was already established and they were very active in reaching out to me.”
Within three years, Jake-Turner was president of the organization and accomplished some major goals during her time there. St. Johns didn’t have an inclusive environment when Jake-Turner arrived, but the AAAG proved hard evidence of smaller incidents that led to bigger ones helped enact change. The school would also hire its first official Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Harold “Gene” Batiste, due to the actions of Jake-Turner and the rest of the AAAG.
For Jake-Turner to enact similar positive change at UConn, she admits that she still has to get the lay of the land before figuring out exactly what to focus on.
“From what I see UConn is very inclusive, they do a lot for a lot of different groups and are very inviting and inclusive, but there’s always more,” Jake-Turner said.
For now, Jake-Turner is part of a heralded freshman class tasked with turning around the struggling UConn volleyball team. The Huskies have hovered around .500 since head coach Kris Grunwald was hired to turn around the program, replacing Holly Strauss-Obrien in 2014.
Jake-Turner stepped into a big role as a freshman, both on the court and in the locker room. She tallied 2.33 points and 1.9 kills per set, the third- and fifth-best marks on the team, respectively. She also brings an immense positive influence to the team chemistry.
“Our program has changed a lot compared to what it was. I had a good year with the team, the freshmen all had a really good experience, but if you talk to our seniors and juniors, they had a completely different experience,” Jake-Turner said. “Next year is bringing that really foundation that we had this year and applying it.”
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.