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Division of Student Affairs honors exceptional student leaders

| Monday, April 20, 2015

Seven graduating seniors received awards from Notre Dame’s Division of Student Affairs at the annual Student Leadership Awards Banquet held March 31, according to a University press release.

The press release stated Student Affairs will also honor graduate student Aamir Ahmed Khan at the Graduate School Awards Ceremony on May 15.

FMB-graphic-WEBKeri O'Mara | The Observer

According to the press release, each of the eight awards acknowledges particular leadership qualities in students “who have made exceptional contributions to the Notre Dame community.”

The Mike Russo Spirit Award highlights a student’s service and personal character and was given to former student body president Lauren Vidal for her efforts regarding campus safety, mental health awareness and community outreach, the press release stated.

“Having an opportunity to really listen to those around me and speak on their behalf in larger conversations about campus climate or needs fueled my efforts each day,” Vidal said. “I learned that it is only when you follow the needs of your peers and school, when you put their needs first, that you truly lead in the role.”

The Rev. A. Leonard Collins, C.S.C., Award was presented to former student government chief of staff Juan Rangel for his dedication in serving the interests of the student body, according to the press release.  Particularly, the award recognized Rangel’s commitment to increasing support for students of high financial need and undocumented students.

“I think, especially with us all being college students, it’s really easy to become individualistic and think about the needs and necessities that we ourselves have — we need to go to office hours and we need to get good grades and we need to find a job,” Rangel said. “But there’s so many concerns that we have ourselves, that we sometimes forget the concerns of others around us.”

Rangel, who served as the 2014-2015 Campus Ministry multicultural intern, also co-founded and became president of the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy in order to raise awareness about immigration issues and to stimulate outreach to undocumented students, he said.

The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., Award celebrates a senior who has promoted a spirit of diversity and inclusion during his or her time on campus and was awarded to Matthew Wong for his service as chair of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame, according to the press release.

“I think [this award] really shows that Notre Dame is putting diversity and inclusion at the forefront,” he said.  “It’s acknowledging students who are taking steps to making Notre Dame more welcoming, regardless of socioeconomic background, race, gender, ethnicity — whatever it may be.”

The Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., Leadership Award, given to senior Grace Carroll for her work coordinating this year’s Campus Ministry Freshman Retreat, honors a student “who embodies Blessed Fr. Moreau’s vision of educating heart and mind, as well as someone who has demonstrated significant effort to advancing the Catholic character of the University,” the press release stated.

“I was really surprised to get the award, never expected to get it,” Carroll said.  “I’m just doing what everyone around me is trying to do, and that’s just trying to be a better person every day.”

The John W. Gardner Student Leadership Award recognized senior Christina Gutierrez for her commitment to service in the greater South Bend community, according to the press release.  Gutierrez said she specifically received the award for her work volunteering and fundraising for the Monroe Park Grocery Cooperative in South Bend and for her service as president of the Notre Dame chapter of the World Hunger Coalition.

“I’ve been blessed to have free time and to have resources to provide to other people who need them more,” she said.  “Getting to use that for a greater purpose and for an issue that’s really important to me — hunger and malnutrition and healthy eating — and getting to pair that up with meeting people from the South Bend Community, I think is really cool.”

The Ray Siegfried Award for Leadership Excellence, presented to Megan Heeder for her involvement in the Robinson Community Learning Center’s Youth Development AmeriCorps and the Center for Social Concern’s Summer Service Learning Program, honors a student who has demonstrated leadership, athletic ability and a love for the Catholic faith, according to the press release.

Heeder, who participated as a three-sport varsity athlete her freshman through junior years, said she was honored to receive the award because it acknowledged her “some degree of success in creating a positive change in the lives of other people.”

“Because if I leave here without doing that, then what was the point of being here at all?” she said.

The Denny Moore Award for Excellence in Journalism acknowledges a graduating senior who, according to the press release, exhibits exemplary character and writing ability and was awarded to former Scholastic editor-in-chief, Jonathan Warren.

“I think Notre Dame’s values, those of educating the whole person and serving others, values I’m told Denny Moore exemplified, really lend themselves to a meaningful education in journalism,” Warren said. “I’ve been grateful to work with other students, professors and mentors who have helped me to explore journalism as a practice of empathy and service to others.”

The Sister Jean Lenz, O.S.F., Leadership Award, to be presented to Khan for his accomplishments as the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 president of the Muslim Student Association, distinguishes a graduate student who promotes a welcoming and diverse atmosphere on campus, according to the press release.

“I was very overwhelmed,” Khan said, recalling the moment he learned he was to receive the award.  “This is undoubtedly the biggest extracurricular recognition that I have ever received throughout my career.”

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