Melissa Henry receives Saint Mary’s 2018 Outstanding Senior Award
Colleen Zewe | Friday, May 18, 2018
During her four years at Saint Mary’s, senior Melissa Henry served the College community as a volunteer in Circle K International (CKI), a Resident Advisor and as co-president of the college’s National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA).
In April, Henry received a pleasant surprise in the mail — a letter informing her that she received the 2018 Outstanding Senior Award.
The award, presented by the Saint Mary’s Alumnae Association, is given to a senior who “exemplifies the spirit and values of her school and is distinguished by scholarship, leadership, and outstanding dedication to Saint Mary’s,” according to a press release.
Henry, who is also one of five co-valedictorians, was nominated by Jennifer Essig, clinical assistant director and professional specialist in the department of communicative sciences and disorders, and Lee Ann Moore, volunteer coordinator for the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
“It was such an honor [to be nominated],” Henry said. “I was very surprised, but to know that both Lee Ann and Jen Essig both nominated me was an incredible feeling.”
Henry volunteers at the Sisters of the Holy Cross convent through CKI and established “Dining Divas,” a program in which students can volunteer to feed the Sisters. In addition to attending social events at the convent, Henry works in the activity office there and assists individual Sisters.
“It started out as going there once a week to spend time with the Sisters and forget the stresses of the day and they were always welcoming and kind,” Henry said. “I really found a community there in addition to the college community, and it helped me grow as an individual.”
Henry was honored Monday at the alumnae champagne brunch for seniors with her family in attendance.
“My parents were really, really excited,” she said. “This was an unexpected award.”
Henry said she did not tell many of her friends about the award, as she believed that while she received the honor, the class of 2018 has many seniors who are worthy of praise.
“It is an incredible honor, but there are so many amazing graduates this year that we as a class the heart of Saint Mary’s,” she said. “I don’t think of myself as the one individual outstanding senior.”
Henry will give two speeches at Commencement, and one at the champagne brunch.
“The champagne brunch is a great opportunity to speak in front of my classmates and get ready to become more comfortable with the speeches at graduation,” Henry said. “It’s a great learning experience to have this speech writing and public speaking experience.”
Henry said that volunteering shaped her college career, and it is a way students can anchor themselves in a community to make connections.
“When you come to a totally new place, and there’s this thing available to you that you can grab onto to have connections with people … While volunteering, I never felt like I don’t belong there,” Henry said. “It’s been a great way to connect. The college community is amazing, but we’re preparing to go into the real world, and volunteering allows you to work with a variety of people.”
Henry also said she believes volunteering in college helped her learn more about the South Bend community.
“Volunteering also helps you get into your local community,” she said. “In college, we have a great community here, but to branch out and get into all the opportunities South Bend has is a really good thing.”
After graduation, Henry will pursue a doctorate of audiology degree at Vanderbilt University.
“I knew I wanted to go into a profession where I serve others,” Henry said. “I’m bringing hearing to people who may otherwise not have it, and hearing, speaking and communicating is how we connect with people.”
Henry said volunteer work inspired her to focus on impacting individuals and making a difference in her community.
“Working in the convent as taught me that the elderly don’t always have the best hearing healthcare, and it can be isolating,” she said. “If you focus on impacting the lives of individual people, it can turn into more of a community impact. One person can’t do everything, but everyone can do something.”