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Naya Crittenden

Naya Crittenden

Right side hitter, UI volleyball, 2015-16 | Top scorer in Swiss pro league, 2019-20 | Class of 2018

A few words of thanks, from last season’s top scorer in the Swiss pro volleyball league to a few of the fine folks who made her Illini experience one to treasure ...

“Professor Leon Dash — for teaching me so much about Black history within journalism, and more specifically about the importance of telling stories about the lives of people of color that often go unreported,” Naya Crittenden says. 

Lecturer "John Paul, aka JP — for sparking my passion in journalism my first semester at Illinois, bringing wonderful speakers in to give us great advice, and making me realize that I made the right choice for my field of study.

“Professor Janice Collins — for leading by example with passion and heart, giving insight on the steps to success, and showing me that anything is possible as a woman, an athlete and a journalist.

“Former Head Coach Kevin Hambly — for accepting me as the person and player that I am, and inspiring me to continue my journey in professional volleyball. I didn't know if I would ever play professionally and after my time with Illinois volleyball I am now living that dream.

“I was a West Coast girl through and through until I decided to transfer to Illinois from the University of Oregon, and even though cornfields and snow were a long ways away from my home in sunny California, I just knew it was where I needed to be from the moment I stepped foot on campus during my first visit.

“Before I made my decision in 2015, I remember finding this little football I've had in my room, that I got from the USC vs. Illinois Rose Bowl game in 2008, where my family and I went to support my older brother, who was on the USC football team during that time. That's when I knew where I was going to go next.

“The places I think of the most when I reflect on my time at Illinois are the Quad and the Red Lion, respectively.

“The Quad looks like what you would see in every blockbuster about the college experience, and the college parties and bars definitely reflected that feeling. But it's not a movie set; it's real.

“It's a campus that is unlike any other, and I appreciate all of the life experience I gained while being a Fighting Illini."

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