The Rising Star awards, hosted by the Office for Student Engagement and Leadership (OSEL), honored students, faculty, clubs and organizations during a virtual ceremony that took place throughout the week.

Awards ranged from individual leadership to outstanding diversity and collaboration. A full list of awards and their recipients can be found here.

OSEL announced the recipients of the awards through their Instagram story throughout the last week of April, ending on the Rising Star recipients and Distinguished Leader awards.

Recipients of the Rising Star and Distinguished Leader awards are given to students who inspire on campus and balance academia with leadership opportunities in their organizations.

Freshman to seniors alike were nominated for the awards.

Brooklyn Graham, a freshman political science major, received a Rising Star award. Graham is involved in the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) and serves as the event chair. She is also involved in Black Action Society (BAS) and Law Society.

“In FMLA, being surrounded by strong women has taught me how to be a fearless leader and that my space is valued,” Graham said. “It’s taught me to get out there and make the most of my college experience.”

Graham said that ever since she knew about the Rising Star awards, she made it her goal. She said that she would do all the work she has done and continue with her involvement without the award, but that it was nice to receive recognition for it.

Also strongly involved with FMLA is Maggie Calvert, a senior political science, philosophy and gender/diversity studies major. Calvert, the President of FMLA, received a Distinguished Leader Award.

Involved in Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SRSGA) as the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, a member of Debate Society and philosophy club, Calvert learned a lot about herself.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence and realized how much my voice and opinions actually matter,” Calvert said in an email statement.

Calvert said that she is honored to be considered a leader on campus, and was inspired by prior leaders who previously held her positions.

“Many of the people I have met have inspired my passion for social justice and encourage me to be a better person every day,” Calvert said in an email statement.

Other student recipients mirror the gratitude that Calvert has.

Bella Serapiglia, a junior marketing major with a Spanish minor, is a transfer student from Westchester who is involved in Law Society, Debate Society and Phi Sigma Pi.

Serapiglia received a Rising Star Award and said that she gained professionalism from learning public speaking skills in Law Society and Debate Society.

“I don’t do things to get accolades,” Serapiglia said. “I do them becaue I want to help myself and other people. Helping other people, that’s one of the reasons I want to be a lawyer. It means a lot that my peer and professors recognized me or that I impacted their life. I meant a lot to me because I never had that before.”

Serapiglia said that joining Debate Society and Law Society changed her life.

Other students also found that their involvement at Slippery Rock had created valuable relationships.

AJ Sumser, a sophomore recreational therapy major with minors in adaptive physical activity and aquatics, received a Rising Star award.

Sumser is involved as a college coach in Rock Life, a member of recreational therapy club taking an E-board position as Vice President and a member of aquatics and scuba club, taking the position as President in the fall.

Sumser works with a student in the Rock Life program who is non-communicating, the first student in the state of Pennsylvania to attend a four-year university.

“[My involvement] has taught me to stay organized and to use my time for not only the betterment of myself but for others,” Sumser said.

Sumser and his Rock Life student have grown close over the past year and said that although he is not on campus, he can still make an impact from home.

“I have never been one to ask for recognition or to need verbal reassurance or acceptance, but having someone nominate me and appreciate the work I am doing for others, I was caught off guard,” Sumser said.

Wanting to share the recognition with fellow winners and nominees, Sumser said that he wanted to thank OSEL for giving students the opportunity to be recognized.

Similarly to wanting other students to be recognized for their achievements, Domenic Teolis, a senior dual finance and economic major with minors in health care administration management and information systems, received one of the awards for Distinguished Leader of the Year.

Teolis works with Residence Life and recently became the Senior Resident Assistant of Building F during the semester.

“It has given me a lot of perspective of different people,” Teolis said. “We build a lot of good relationships through [Residence Life] because we all have a common goal.”

Upon first receiving the nomination email, Teolis was not sure if it was real, but upon reading further said that he felt good that people around him knew the hard work he was putting in.

“I feel like there are a couple other people that could have got this too,” Teolis said. “I’m honored that somebody thought of me to do this.”

Also learning the role of leadership was Natalie Glenn, a sophomore resort recreation and hospitality management major.

Glenn received a Rising Star award and acts as the Director of Speakers for the University Program Board (UPB) and said that her involvement has taught her the important quality of “we” rather than “me”

“[Receiving the award] made me feel like I was really part of a community,” Glenn said. “The Office for Student Engagement and Leadership is like one big family and I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of it.”

Hope is a junior converged journalism major and entering her second year on The Rocket staff and her first year as Campus Life Editor. Previously, she served as Assistant Campus Life Editor and covered campus events, club events, along with concerts and plays. After graduation, she hopes to write for a city newspaper reporting on city journalism or community affairs.

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