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Division of Student Affairs presents awards to graduating student leaders

| Friday, May 19, 2017

At the 31st annual Student Leadership Awards Banquet on April 10, the Division of Student Affairs presented awards to seven members of the Class of 2017, recognizing their feats in leadership, inclusion and faith.

Jessica Pedroza received The Rev. A. Leonard Collins, C.S.C., Award. This award is given to someone who makes an effort to further student interests on campus. Pedroza is a political science major and AnBryce Scholar who is actively involved in the Student Coalition for Immigrant Advocacy; she also co-founded and is co-president of the group 1stGND, representing first-generation college students. Pedroza said she was surprised to have received the award.

“Being from my specific background — the daughter of Mexican immigrants, born and raised in the south side of Phoenix — while also going to a prestigious high school and university and subsequently rising up to leadership positions, I receive a lot of praise, admiration and congratulations,” said Pedroza. “Most of the time, I feel like I don’t deserve it. To the best of my ability, I just try to be kind and loving, I try to help others, and I work hard at what I’m passionate about.”

In addition to her successes at Notre Dame, Pedroza is a former volunteer coordinator of St. Vincent de Paul, a Senior Anchor intern in the Office of Campus Ministry and she has taught English as a second language at a high school in Santiago, Chile.

Alexis Doyle received the John W. Gardner Student Leadership Award, recognizing her feats in community service in South Bend and abroad. Doyle is a biological sciences and international peace studies major who was recently named a Rhodes Scholar for her outstanding work in Guatemala helping women in the community fight parasitic infection through a self-sustaining soap cooperative. This year, in addition to serving as a resident assistant in Ryan Hall, Doyle’s community involvement included her work at the Youth Services Bureau of the Sister Maura Brannick Health Center, where she leads student reflections.

“I have been so fortunate to be welcomed into the South Bend community, particularly at the Youth Services Bureau and the Sister Maura Brannick Health Center, where I have learned so much,” Doyle said.  “I look forward to carrying the lessons I have learned and the stories that have been shared with me at these special places as I leave South Bend in a few weeks.”

Fifth-year student Bryan Ricketts, a political science and chemical engineering major, was the recipient of The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., Award. This award is bestowed to a graduating student whose actions have made the Notre Dame community a more welcoming and inclusive home.

Ricketts’ involvement with PrismND, the student organization representing the LGBT and ally communities on campus, garnered him recognition from the Division of Student Affairs.

“The formation of PrismND was a turning point for the treatment of LGBTQ students at Notre Dame, and I’m proud to have been a part of its story,” Ricketts said.

During his time as president of PrismND and his year serving as student government president, Ricketts said he worked to make the Notre Dame community more welcoming and comfortable for LGBT students.

“The word ‘catholic’ means universal,” he said. “Being at a Catholic university means that we offer an education based in truth and justice that is accessible to all people. However, people come to Notre Dame from different backgrounds, and we must create an environment where everyone can come to seek that justice through their own identity and experiences. This means that our University must continue to identify the ways in which students may find themselves marginalized and unable to have a seat at the table.”

Bridgid Smith, a theology and Italian studies major, was awarded the Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., Leadership Award for her work embodying the mission of Moreau and her faith-enriching projects. Specifically, Smith co-founded the EXALT Evening Adoration to encourage student prayer, led Bible studies, played piano at Cavanaugh Hall mass and interned with Campus Ministry in Sacramental Preparation and Catechesis.

“I remember freshman year hearing the quote by Blessed Basil Moreau that says, ‘the mind should not be cultivated at the expense of the heart,’ and since then it really has been my goal to strive for this in everything I have done,” Smith said. “The importance of the Catholic spirit at Notre Dame cannot be emphasized enough. It truly is what should shape every decision we make and be what sets us apart from other elite institutions.”

The Mike Russo Award is annually given to a student who embodies the qualities of Mike Russo – someone dedicated to service, personal character and striving to bring the best out of themselves and others. This year’s recipient was Elaine Schmidt, a program of liberal studies major and Latino studies minor.

During her career at Notre Dame, Schmidt emphasized inclusion and making students feel welcome and happy on campus. As a resident assistant in Lewis Hall, Welcome Weekend orientation captain and co-founder of the student positivity group KiND, Schmidt said she made it her mission to be kind to everyone in the campus community.

“Recently, [senior] Peter Fink — another cofounder of KiND — shared with me an experience during a medical school interview when the proctor asked him if he would do KiND club over again given that it has almost nothing to do with his future career,” she said. “Peter responded, ‘When it comes down to it, all that really matters in life is that we’re kind and loving to one another, so yes.’ I really agree with Peter that for the same reason we are KiND in general, we must choose to be KiND, welcoming, inclusive and loving on campus — because in the end, all that really matters is how we make others feel.”

Catherine Wagner, a biology major, received the Ray Siegfried Award for Leadership Excellence, honoring students committed to faith, athletics and leadership in the Notre Dame community. Wagner embodied this spirit of Ray Siegfried through her experiences on the Notre Dame Women’s Rowing team and her devotion to campus ministry, where she led spiritual discussions as a member of the First Anchor leadership program that aims to cultivate faith on campus.

“My Notre Dame experience has been shaped by the communities of faith and friendship I’ve been a part of here,” Wagner said. “On the rowing team, I’ve pushed myself more physically and mentally than I ever thought possible, and my teammates have been there through it all. We do it for each other. Faith is all about community, as well — both the Anchor community in Campus Ministry or the wonderful women at [Pasquerilla East] mass on Sundays.”

Cassidy McDonald was awarded The Denny Moore Award for Excellence in Journalism. McDonald, a marketing major with a minor in the John W. Gallivan program in journalism, ethics and edmocracy, represented the qualities of former Notre Dame vice president Dennis Moore, who was revered for his curiosity and journalistic integrity.

In addition to her role as the editor-in-chief of Scholastic, McDonald was awarded the Luce Scholarship, which will take her to China to report on marginalized citizens interacting with policies and systems.

“Journalism was a passport to so many diverse perspectives at Notre Dame, and my time at Scholastic magazine was extraordinary,” McDonald said. “I was able to talk to college deans about the enrollment decline in Arts and Letters, spend time with our neighbors at the South Bend Center for the Homeless, talk to local farmers about their issues with labor and immigration and investigate complaints about the sexual assault and Title IX disciplinary process. I learned so much about these diverse topics, but more importantly, I learned that my greatest passion in life is journalism, and I’m beyond grateful that my mentors and professors at Notre Dame have set me up to follow that passion.”

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