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Seven seniors honored with student leadership awards

| Friday, May 21, 2021

Every spring, the Division of Student affairs honors exceptional student leaders at the Student Leadership Awards banquet. The 35th annual event, held on April 13 in the Dahnke Ballroom and over Zoom, recognized seven members of the class of 2021 as leaders in the Notre Dame community and beyond. 

Odalis Gonzalez Reyes was the recipient of the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Award. This award is given to a graduating senior who has significantly contributed to and advanced the climate of inclusion at the University and beyond. 

Gonzalez, originally from American Falls, Idaho, served as a program assistant for FIRE Starter with the Gender Relations Center, president of the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy and on the leadership board of Show Some Skin. She also led retreats for Latinx first-year students with Campus Ministry and tutored high school students during her time at Notre Dame. 

A psychology and Latino studies double-major with a minor in education, schooling and society, Gonzalez was also a senior cohort leader with the AnBryce Scholars Initiative and a member of Ballet Folklorico Azul y Oro. 

Gonzalez said she was tremendously honored and grateful for the award. “At the end of the day, my goal with everything I have been involved with has been to make it slightly easier and safer for the individuals that come after me,” Gonzalez said. “[To] make it a more welcoming and inclusive community for the next generation.” 

Rachel Ingal was this year’s recipient of the The Rev. A. Leonard Collins, C.S.C., Award, which honors a graduating senior who has made great personal efforts to advance the interests of Notre Dame students. 

Originally from Loveland, Ohio, Ingal served as the 2020-2021 student body president and previously as director of the First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership program and vice president of Badin Hall. A political science major with minors in business economics and international development, Ingal is also a Kellogg International Scholar and a member of Halftime A Cappella. 

The John W. Gardner Student Leadership Award was awarded to Molly Link of Brush, Colorado, for exemplifying the ideals of the University through community service within and beyond the campus community. 

Link, a theology major with a minor in Catholic Social Tradition, founded the BeLoved Women’s Discernment Community at Notre Dame and served as a Campus Ministry Anchor Intern and a Resident Assistant in Lewis Hall. She was also involved with the Center for Social Concerns and completed an International Summer Service Leadership Program with the Franciscan Sisters in Tanzania. In the local community, she is a catechist at a local parish and a regular volunteer with the South Bend Center for the Homeless

“I am grateful for all of the opportunities and resources the University has provided me over the last four years that have made it possible for me to encounter incredible people who are a gift to serve,” Link said. 

Aaron Benavides is this year’s recipient of the Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., Leadership Award, given to a graduating senior who embodies Father Moreau’s vision of educating the heart and has exemplified significant effort in advancing the Catholic character of the University. 

A political science major from Corpus Christi, Texas, minoring in digital marketing, journalism, ethics and democracy and theology, Benavides served as the student government 2020-2021 chief of staff in addition to serving through many roles he held prior in student government, such as Director of Faith Service his sophomore year. He also served as a Mass chair for the 2020 Junior Parents Weekend and a Basilica sacristan. Appointed by University President Fr. John Jenkins, Benavides was the student representative with the Campus Engagement Task Force on clergy abuse.

“All my work the past four years here has broadened my understanding of what it means to educate both the mind and the heart,” Benavides said. “I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with motivated student leaders and with administrators to help build a better Notre Dame for all.”

This year’s recipient of the Ray Siegfried Award for Leadership Excellence is Conal Fagan, a political science and peace studies major from Derry, Northern Ireland. This award is given to a graduating senior who embodies former trustee Ray Siegfried’s leadership, generosity, devotion to the Catholic faith and affinity for athletics. 

Fagan served as the first Irish-born Notre Dame Leprechaun mascot his junior and senior year, as well as a varsity cheerleader and a sports broadcaster for Fighting Irish Media. He was also an active leader in the Center for Social Concerns, co-chair of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies conference and served as a coach and mentor to students with disabilities. 

Sarah Galbenski is this year’s recipient of the Mike Russo Spirit Award, given to an undergraduate student who models Mike Russo’s affinity for service and strives to bring out the best in others and themselves. 

Galbenski, an honors Spanish and global affairs major with a concentration in international peace studies from Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, served as the 2020-2021 student body vice president her senior year and held multiple leadership roles in Walsh Hall. She was a Spanish interpreter, bilingual tutor and English Language instructor in the South Bend community as well as abroad in Ecuador and Chile. Galbenski is also a Kellogg International Scholar and member of the Notre Dame Folk Choir. 

“I was immensely honored to receive the Mike Russo Spirit Award, and I am so grateful to both the Division of Student Affairs and the Student Activities Office for putting on such a meaningful Student Leadership Awards Banquet,” Galbenski said. “It was wonderful to be able to connect with other student leaders in person and celebrate our flexibility and resiliency in leading through this difficult year.”

Dessi Gomez, from San Clemente, California, was awarded the Denny Moore Award for Excellence in Journalism. This honor is given to a graduating senior who exemplifies the integrity, character, commitment to Notre Dame and writing ability of former Notre Dame associate vice president Denny Moore.

(Editor’s Note: Dessi Gomez is a Scene writer for The Observer.)

Gomez said it was rewarding “to be recognized for one of [her] true and most prioritized passions at Notre Dame which is journalism and storytelling.” 

Gomez, an American studies major with minors in journalism, ethics and democracy and gender studies, served as a writer with The Observer and editor of Scholastic magazine. She also held two professional internships at the South Bend Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Gomez covered breaking news at Notre Dame for the student publications and reported on arts, culture and entertainment. Gomez traveled to Puerto Rico as a sophomore to report on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in the class “Covering America.”

“That trip was a very formative experience in my desire to continue journalism,” she said. 

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About Isabella Volmert

Isabella "Issy" Volmert is a junior majoring in English and minoring in theology and journalism, ethics and democracy at the University of Notre Dame. She currently serves The Observer as assistant managing editor. Follow her @ivolmertnews for niche JED Twitter content.

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