RWU Celebrates Student Leaders in Annual Achievement Awards Ceremony

On Sunday, May 4, the RWU community, family and friends gathered online to honor student achievements throughout the year

By Julia Rubin
Group photo of students with members of Sandy Hook Promise.
Dr. Karen Haskell and Student Leadership Award Winner Abigail Higgins (bottom row, second from right), with fellow founding members of Students United Against Gun Violence, at last fall's event with nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise.

As it does every year, this year's Student Achievement Awards ceremony honored students, alumni and faculty members who have made a profound impact through their leadership and activism.

From sustainability work to exemplary tour guiding, to community engagement, to spirit in the face of adversity, RWU students have demonstrated countless achievements all year long.

The RWU community, family and friends recently logged onto Zoom for this year's ceremony, the first time that commemoration has been a virtual one.

“In ideal circumstances, we would be on campus for this ceremony today, in the Field House,” said Vice President for Student Life John King. “There is nothing about COVID-19 that is ideal, except for our ability and the opportunity to maintain community and appreciation for others, especially our incredible students, even if we must do so virtually.”

Among the awards given was The Dr. Karen Haskell Student Leadership Award. It was “created to recognize senior student leaders who have truly exemplified leadership through community engagement during their time at RWU,” said King. This year, six seniors, won the award. 

Among them was elementary education major Abigail Higgins. Higgins is one of the founding members of the RWU chapter of Students United to End Gun Violence. She has also completed an internship focused on STEAM Education, was an advisory board member in the development of RWU’s MA in Special Education, and serves as an Education Department Ambassador for prospective students. Abigail is involved in Future Teachers of America, Helping Hawks and the Foundation of International Medical Relief. 

“I’m very grateful to have been selected for this award,” Higgins said. “Throughout my time at RWU, I have seen an abundance of growth within myself. I am very thankful to have had a place in which I could begin to create change and further my understanding of the world around me. I am grateful for all the people who I have met along the way at RWU, and for those who continuously pushed us to achieve all that they knew we could.”

Another award was for Student Tour Guide of the Year, given to those who share their pride for RWU with prospective students, going above and beyond in every interaction. 

“Even of the face of a global pandemic and having to help adjust everything we do within our office, they remained levelheaded and diligent. They are natural leaders in the Office of Admission and lead by example,” said Associate Director of Admission Visit Experience and Events, Heather Schramm. 

Among these recipients was senior Dance and Elementary Education double major Melissa Rodriguez, who has been a constant source of positivity in the admissions office. Recently, she conducted a virtual tour for prospective students who could not visit campus in person, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Receiving an RWU Achievement Award has helped me to recognize the impact I had, not only at the Admissions office, but by my fellow RWU students,” Rodriguez said. “I am very thankful that we were able to celebrate everyone who has proved themselves as active participants of our community (even if it was virtual!)" 

“Congratulations to all,” said President Miaoulis. “We obviously were hoping to have this ceremony in person, where we could cheer for you and you could have your friends from campus cheer for you as well. Of course we are as proud of all your accomplishments as we would be if this whole thing were in person.” 

Though this year has been different than most, with the end of the semester being completed remotely, RWU students have proved their resiliency again and again. They remain committed to one another and the community around them, continuing to make a difference even in the most challenging circumstances. Whether online or in-person, their achievements are well worth celebrating. 

Awards and Recipients 

Some 60 students, faculty and staff were recognized during the May 4 ceremony.

Academic Scholarship: Julissa Arce, Michelle Desiata, Kyle Villella, Alexandra Welch

Activism Scholarship: Gianna Akerberg, Grace Amato, Katie LePage, Alexus Moniz

Student Admissions Assistant of the Year: Joshua B. Kruzan, Sabrina Martins, Melissa Rodriguez

All-y for Mental Health Award: Meghan Maher

Melissa Carrasquillo Award for Intercultural Citizenship: Rachel Campbell, David Hayes, Miranda Rojas

Charles J. Kelley Health Service Award: Hannah Verre

Class Award (First Year): Zachary J. Lafontaine, Emma Trahan, Kyle Villella

Class Award (Sophomore): Caroline Davidson, Derick Medina Pinto

Class Award (Junior): Brandon Baez, Mia Bettencourt, Akane Yamada

Class Award (Senior): Drew Abbott, Max Goldberg, Aubrey McLaughlin, Sean Nugent, Kalasia B. Richer

Club Member of the Year: Brianna Messa-Mastronardi

Dr. Karen Haskell Senior Leadership Award: Asia Aliyah Carter-Lamb, Kevin Deeb, Emily Digman, Abigail Higgins, Abigail Maxwell, Haley Watt

Lt. Charles A. Henderson, USN '99 Spirit Award:Asia Aliyah Carter-Lamb, Irene Sanchez, Ariana Smaldone

Henderson Outstanding Tutor Award: Olivia Ryan, Aubrey McLaughlin, Veronica Noel Schaefer

Sustainability Award: Emily Marques, Amanda Mueller, Alejandra Quintero Torres, Elizabeth Reilly

Title IX Violence Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Award: April Federicho

Dr. J. Harold G. Way Award: Julissa Arce, Lexi Dubovik, Jillian Houle, 

Intercultural Values and Service Award:Mohammed Basoad, Indigo Martin, Tyler Porter

Organization Member of the Year: Carly Egan

RA of the Year Award: Sabrina Sousa 

Russo Award for Athlete Academic Excellence: Tara Chatowsky, Christopher J. Chipchak

Student Admissions Assistant of the Year: John Patrick Dye, Erick Herrera

Sustainability Award: Emily Marques, Amanda Mueller, Alejandra Quintero Torres, Elizabeth Reilly 

Title IX Violence Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Award: April Federico

Dr. J. Harold G. Way Award: Julissa Arce, Lexi Dubovick, Jillian Houle