Home Featured News Masks come off at the Student Leadership Awards ceremony

Masks come off at the Student Leadership Awards ceremony


By Brandon Smith

At 5 p.m. on March 23, student leaders of Grand Rapids Community College convened in the Banquet Hall in the Applied Technology Center  for the Student Leadership Awards Ceremony. 

This year, the ceremony was given a masquerade theme and promised a night of classiness. Masquerade masks of all different shapes and colors were handed out at the front doors. The banquet hall itself was dressed up with flickering golden lights and shiny gold streamers. Two food tables were at either end of the room courtesy of Creative Dining, the organization that runs the Sneden Café and Quiet Cafè. Round tables were draped in black and adorned with bouquets. Orchestral music serenaded attendees from the PA system overhead. Department heads and program directors strolled through the room, greeting each new arrival.

“I love that our students who planned this event… chose a masquerade theme. Can we acknowledge that for a moment? I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking about where we were three years ago in scrambling to find and then wear masks,” said Sheila Jones in her keynote speech to the attendees of the Student Leadership Awards ceremony. “It speaks to their resilience and strength that our students are presenting us with an event that acknowledges the positive attributes of wearing a mask.” 

Tables were stacked with delicious food and a photographer was present to capture memories.

The ceremony, organized by the Student Alliance and Campus Activities Board, and funded by the Campus Activities Fee, was intended to celebrate campus leaders. The awards examine individual leadership skills, outstanding citizenship, and how the nominees have improved the student experience on campus.

“We want and need students to get involved on campus,” said Lina Blair, the Director of Student Life. “To create new student organizations, to join existing ones, and to help keep this community the way that it is and make it even better.”

In addition, there were awards for academic subjects, student organizations, and Student Organization advisors who have actively worked to support students.

Student Life Assistant Director Ashley Fox introduced Sheila Jones, the keynote speaker for the event. Although Jones admitted that this was her first keynote address, she spoke about the idea of individuality and relayed a bit of her own life experience as a twin. 

 “Life’s an exciting adventure, and your college will always be your experience to shape, as you’ll then shape the world around you,” said Jones in her speech.

As Becca Lubbers took the stage, the Student Group Awards were announced and handed out. The winners this year included the Supply Chain Student Association for New Student Organization of the Year, Phi Theta Kappa for Project, Event or Program of the Year, and Raider Nation Gaming for Student Organization of the Year.

Lubbers handed off the podium to Clara Jansen to announce the Student Leadership Awards. One-by-one, the winners of these prestigious leadership accolades came up to the stage and accepted their impressive crystal awards for their achievements in student leadership.

“I think it’s really valuable to see yourself be a part of a community like this and to find your people,” said Ashley Fox, Assistant Director of Student Life. “To find the groups or efforts they can be a part of to gain skills, but also meet new people and make new friends.”

GRCC President Charles Lepper attended the event as well, applauding each winner before taking to the stage to bestow the Richard W. Calkins Presidential Leadership Award to Evodie Djunga, the President of the Campus Activities Board.

“I started my pathway to my current role as an involved student,” Lepper told The Collegiate. “I’m so glad that we have students who are engaged, who are doing great things. The skills that you learn as a student leader (will) serve you well in your profession, in your career, and your volunteerism and your community engagement after college. This is a learning environment and my hope is that one day students will look back and say ‘I learned that because of my involvement on campus’ and recognize that part of it started here at GRCC.”

Evodie Djunga (left) receives the Richard W. Calkins Presidential Leadership Award from current GRCC President Charles Lepper (right)

Here’s the full list of nominees and winners for the Student Leadership and Student Group awards (the names of the winners are in bold):

Benham Service and Civic Engagement Award

  • Aya Ghlaim
  • Kim Budde
  • Melissa “Missy” Gheorghiu
  • Susana Chavez

Brian Kloet Campus Involvement Award

  • Isabella Eustice
  • Melissa “Missy” Gheorghiu
  • Evodie Djunga
  • Brayden Smith

Cedric and Sandy Ward Leadership Award

  • Isabella Eustice

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award

  • Poojitha Poduguru

Richard W. Calkins Presidential Leadership Award

  • Dakota Boylan
  • Evodie Djunga
  • Alex Miranda
  • Brayden Smith
  • Poojitha Poduguru

Student Organization Awards:

New Student Organization of the Year

  • Supply Chain Student Association

Project, Event, or Program of the Year

  • Phi Theta Kappa
  • Raider Nation Gaming

Student Organization of the Year

  • Raider Nation Gaming
  • Chess Club
  • Phi Theta Kappa

Jerry Benham Award for Student Organization Advisor

  • Francisco Ramirez
  • Ryan Palmitier
  • Lynnae Selberg

Additionally, winning students were selected for the following awards:

Honors Student Award 2023

  • Kim Budde
  • John Chappelow
  • Safinaz Karaein
  • Sherry Sokolowski

Creative Dining Outstanding Student Scholarship

  • Demi Lopez

Emerging Music Student Leadership Award Nominee

  • Elizabeth Sherman

Distinguished Music Student Leadership Award Nominees

  • Nathan Emerson

2022-2023 Math Perseverance Award MA 097-MA 107

  • Andrew Stuk

2022-2023 Math Perseverance Award MA 108-MA 259

  • Allison Mezeske

Outstanding Mathematics Student 2022-2023

  • Anthony Lazo Vasquez

Outstanding Biology Student of the Year

  • Nakobi Thomas
  • Yasmina Zimmer

Geology Student of the Year

  • Yasmina Zimmer

Physics Student of the Year

  • Dustin Obetts

Chemistry Student of the Year

  • Tan Vo
As the ceremony came to a close, both staff and students gathered around to celebrate.
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