Jade Fulton’s first look at SVSU was when she was 12 years old and no, she wasn’t doing a really early prospective student campus tour. Her mom had returned to school to earn her teaching degree and Jade tagged along on a “bring your kid to work/school” day. Yet looking back, Jade says she always felt comfortable and at home at SVSU, and though it was still another six or so years before she would seriously look at colleges, she says that even then, she pretty much knew that SVSU would be her choice.
And there were other things in Jade’s early life that took root and have since helped shape her and have served her well. From her parents, Jade received a strong foundation for how she wanted to live her life – with an emphasis on family, hard work, being true to yourself, exploring all of your options and giving back. As a kid, Jade enjoyed ballet, gymnastics, horseback riding and sports of all sorts, but especially volleyball, basketball and softball. By the time Jade had reached fifth grade, she had found her sporting love, and even a hero. Amanda Fitzgerald, an older Byron, Mich. girl, was a varsity softball player Jade admired and so wanted to be like. It was Amanda’s father who ran a softball clinic and told Jade that she had potential; she says it was her “light bulb moment.” “I already loved softball, but that sent me in that direction.”
Work hard, play hard, study hard. Jade entered high school, still focused on and passionate about softball. When she was a sophomore, she heard the shattering news that her idol, sophomore-in-college Amanda had been killed in a drunk-driving accident. In looking back at that time, Jade says that she chose to use Amanda’s death in a positive way. Of course, it was emotionally devastating, but she says that she decided to have Amanda’s death help her in her life choices. “As an athlete, she was who I wanted to be, so I worked hard the rest of my high school days to get to college. I started to work even harder to achieve my goals.” When Jade came to SVSU, she did so on an athletic scholarship. And Jade adds that she has also used Amanda’s death to make positive lifestyle choices; she is not the stereotypical college student who puts partying on par with studying. “I don’t drink or party,” Jade declares simply.
When Jade started at SVSU in fall 2007, she wanted “to make the best of the opportunities I was being given.” As a freshman, she was a relief pitcher, and she pitched in virtually every game. She acknowledges that the role was riddled with pressure, but that she was up to the challenge. In her freshman year, the team won the GLIAC conference tournament, the team’s first in 18 years. As she moved into the role of starting pitcher, the team continued its winning ways. In 2008-09, the Cardinals won the conference tournament again, moving onto the Sweet 16 before being eliminated.
But in 2009-10, there was setback for the young woman who has always refused to look at disappointments as anything but opportunities. Jade was out most of the season after a virus left her with double vision. The team gave its best, with Jade rooting her teammates along. The Cardinals qualified for a third consecutive NCAA tournament, but lost in the regional.
In her quest to make the best of her opportunities, Jade has also been a highly-engaged student. In 2009-10, she was co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. In that role, she was responsible for the newly created “Cards Who Care” program, where student-athletes created a partnership with Saginaw’s Covenant Hospital to bring student-athletes to the hospital for weekly visits with patients and their families. The experience has been meaningful for the students and the patients, especially younger patients who really look up to the SVSU athletes.
Academically, the 3.80 GPA athletic training major has also made the most of her learning opportunities. When lab technician/athletic training clinical instructor John Lowry forwarded information about the Student Research & Creativity Institute and its funding opportunities, Jade said she turned to exercise science major (and softball teammate/first base) Jill Peterson as a project partner; they immediately began to explore ideas related to a project that would involve the body and health and be community-based. A natural fit was the fact that Jill’s dad is the chief of Saginaw Township’s Fire Department. So the idea turned quickly into a project: Firefighters have to pass a physical test, but subsequently don’t have to maintain physical fitness standards. So Jade and Jill set out to test and measure 80 area firefighters’ body composition, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory levels in order to determine injury prevention. Smiling, Jade says of the initial results, “Let’s just say that some didn’t want their results back.” Jade and Jill followed the testing with exercise sessions and created a nutrition guide and a workout booklet for tracking at-home exercise.
Making the most of all of the opportunities she has had – as an athlete, a student, a friend, a daughter and a Card Who Cares. This is Jade Fulton. This is SVSU.