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Nine Westfield State students receive President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership

Westfield—On December 4, Westfield State University recognized nine exemplary students for their leadership and service to the university and the surrounding community. The President’s Awards for Excellence in Leadership were presented in a ceremony held on the Westfield State University campus.

“These men and women have distinguished themselves from their peers for both their outstanding academic achievement and also for the unique talent and skills they have demonstrated as leaders,” said Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D.

The President’s Award of Excellence in Leadership was created in 2007. Eligible students must have a grade point average of 3.3 or higher and exhibit a wide range of university and community service activities. To be considered for the award, interested, eligible students were required to complete an application and write an essay related to their experiences in leadership.

The nine awardees include six seniors and three juniors, with a collective average GPA of 3.85. The 2017 recipients are:

Sean Bacon ’19, psychology major, Ware, Mass.
Bacon is the founder and president of the University’s Sustainability Club. A second year resident assistant, he has participated in numerous community service activities, including a service learning project in Guatemala during Spring Break earlier this year. When asked about Bacon, Dickinson Hall Residence Director Katie Wahls said, “As a resident assistant Sean has offered a number of programs to support Westfield State students to promote a better campus culture regarding diversity and inclusion. He consistently demonstrates and genuinely shares his care and compassion for others.”

Heather DeMers ’18, early childhood education and liberal studies major, Uxbridge, Mass.
DeMers serves as the Relay for Life Club co-president and previously chaired the Coaches for Cancer event for two years. The vice president of the Lambda Sigma National Honor Society, DeMers has also participated in numerous volunteer efforts, including her hometown food pantry and a local soup kitchen. When asked about Heather’s contributions, Allison Gagne, staff advisor of the Relay for Life Club, said “Heather has been one of the Relay for Life Club’s most lucrative and visible fundraisers. In April the club will host its 5th Annual event, with a goal of raising its highest amount since its inception -- $50,000.”

Toni Dolan ’18, social work major, Whately, Mass.
Dolan serves as the vice president of Fostering A Culture of Empowerment and Success; is the co-founder and treasurer of the Addiction Education Club; and is a member of both the Tell Me About Your Day Club and the Social Work Association. Aside from her volunteer work on important causes near and dear to her, according to Social Work Professor Dr. Nora Paduykula, “Toni is a leader among our students and consistently builds community whether it is in the classroom, around the table in the dining commons, or as she represents Westfield State in her field internship.”

Jonathan Kelland ’18, economics and political science major, East Walpole, Mass.
Co-captain of the men’s cross country team this fall, on campus Kelland serves on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Economics Society Executive Council. He is also a legislative intern for Massachusetts State Rep. John Rogers. According the Political Science Professor Dr. Brian Steinberg, “Jon is diligent and intelligent” and did an exemplary job representing Westfield State on the economics panel at the Model U.N. competitions.” 

Allen LaGuerre ’18, movement science, sport and leisure studies major, Roslindale, Mass. 
LaGuerre is described by Department of Movement Science Professor Melissa Roti as “wonderfully bright, motivated, and engaged.” According to Dr. Roti, Allen has been key in enlightening his peers on diversity issues. In addition to being a resident assistant and serving as the founder and president of the Inclusive Advancement of Multicultural Students, LaGuerre is the co-president of the Exercise Science Club and a TRIO peer mentor, a support program for first-generation college students.

Katie Morris ’18, English and secondary education major, Avon, Mass.
Morris serves as the treasurer for the Student Education Association of Massachusetts; she serves as the submissions manager and publicist for the Persona publication; as the publicist for Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society; and the student representative on the LGBT committee of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. According to Department of English Professor Dr. Sophia Sarigianides, “Katie is bright, hard-working, detail-oriented and enormously conscientious.”

Michael Reid, Jr. ’19, criminal justice and political science major, West Springfield, Mass.
Reid is president of the Commuter Council, a student ambassador and a member of several committees, including the Finance Committee and Parking Appeals Board. Reid’s leadership was commented upon by Amy Szlachetka, advisor to the Commuter Council, who said “After his election as president, Mike worked to rebuild the council with seven new members and created a bond among them. It’s been said that ‘Good leaders were first great followers,’ and I can see Mike guiding the other students on the council to be good followers so they too may, one day, become good leaders.”

Kaleala Shaw ’18, criminal justice and social work major, Lynn, Mass.
Shaw is president of the Social Work Association, a student security officer, and has volunteered at North Shore Medical Center. When asked about Shaw’s character, Dr. Robert Kersting, Chair of the Department of Social Work, shared this story: “Last spring a building in Westfield that housed three refugee families had a massive fire. Kaleala felt the need to do something for these folks who were our neighbors. She immediately began soliciting and accepting donations to aid these families, which made a tremendous difference to them in their time of need.”

William Sondrini ’18, business management major, Dalton, Mass.
Sondrini is a tutor, a student ambassador, a Student Government Association senator, and serves as co-president of the Catholic Newman Club, which promotes Catholic/Christian teachings on campus. According to Rosann Ryczek of the Mathematics Department, “This fall Will has served as a classroom assistant to a blind student that is enrolled in my course and has successfully tutored the student outside the classroom. A former student of mine, it’s been a pleasure to have Will back in the classroom, where he regularly maintains a professional nature and routinely shows the importance he gives to his responsibilities.”

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