“Greatness” Celebrated Among 2017 Student Leadership Award Winners

Student Leadership Awards winners, from left: Sarah French, Javier Juarez, Cedar Hayes, Derrik Trombley, Jose Rosario, Carla Sanchez (not pictured) and Delta Phi Epsilon (Gianna Cairo, president, and Amanda Blackington pictured here are among the sorority members)

Student Leadership Awards winners, from left: Sarah French, Javier Juarez, Cedar Hayes, Derrik Trombley, Jose Rosario, Carla Sanchez (not pictured) and Delta Phi Epsilon (Gianna Cairo, president, and Amanda Blackington pictured here are among the sorority members)


Michael Norde

Michael Norde, B.S.W. ’12, M.S.W. ’13, urged RIC students to always take strides to make a difference, during his keynote at the ninth annual Student Leadership Awards on April 20.

“I know that there is greatness in you,’’ said Norde, an inpatient case manager at the Providence VA Hospital, to a crowd of more than 50 students nominated to receive awards for their inspirational work on campus and within the community. “And when you possess greatness, it is incumbent upon you to share that greatness with the rest of the world and to make it a better place than you inherited. The simple fact that you were nominated for an award tells me that you’re on the right path.’’

Ultimately six students and one student organization took home awards.

For RIC senior Cedar Hayes, winning the Alan J. Chille Leadership Excellence Award was a “beautiful surprise.’’

“It feels like a last hurrah before I graduate,’’ said Hayes, a gender and women’s studies major.

During her tenure at RIC, Hayes has served as president of the campus group Feminist United, helping to quadruple the group’s membership while planning meetings, debates and discussions on topics such as intersectional feminism, sexuality and queer studies. As a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, Hayes has organized fundraisers for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Providence and Sojourner House.

Janice Okoomian, RIC assistant professor of gender and women’s studies, said, “Cedar is an extraordinary individual, an excellent student and a natural leader. Because of her excellent leadership in Feminist United, Cedar was asked to participate in a team that reviews the Campus Save Act and other reporting, response and prevention education procedures related to sexual assault/violence at Rhode Island College.’’

Other winners:

Derrik Trombley, a senior political science major, earned the Student Employee Award for his work in the Political Science Department. He said, “I come early, stay late and do everything I can while I’m there. Everything that was ever drilled into me about hard work, determination and finishing a job, I brought to this position.’’

Amy Tibbetts, Political Science Department secretary, said Trombley consistently exceeds expectations, anticipates necessary tasks and takes the initiative on projects.

“He demonstrates a strong work ethic and is a stellar role model for our other student employees.’’

Sarah French, a freshman nursing major, took home the Rising Star Award for her numerous contributions to the Office of Student Activities, the Resident Student Association, the Sweet Hall council and Leadership Weekend.

“From the very first days of her freshman year, she hit the ground running, and I was lucky enough to be among the first to discover her,’’ said RIC Student Union Director Kristen Salemi. “She has all that you could ask for in terms of responsibility, motivation and professionalism. She understands the big picture very quickly, working within given parameters and contributing her own touch and style.’’

French, who earned a 4.0 grade point average in nursing during her freshman year, said RIC is an ideal college. “I truly love the atmosphere,’’ she said. “You get the feeling that people are here to further themselves rather than just go to college for the fun of it. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.’’

RIC senior Javier Juarez received the Vital Contribution to the Community Award for his work with RIC’s Latin American Student Organization, the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities and the Peruvian American Association of Rhode Island. He is also a Learning for Life (L4L) scholar.

Joise Garzon, assistant director of L4L, said Juarez has bravely used his personal experiences to become a strong spokesman for undocumented students.

“He has been a leader in activities to raise awareness about tuition equity for undocumented students on a local and national level, asking that Congress pass immigration reform,’’ Garzon said. “In addition, he has prioritized time to mentor high school students and college peers. This is a prime example of how a leader operates.’’

For her efforts in establishing support for English learners in school psychology, Carla Sanchez earned the Outstanding Graduate Leadership Award.

“As a bilingual school psychology student, Carla has an important skill set that is essential for supporting culturally competent practice in schools today,’’ said Jenlyn Furey, RIC assistant professor of school psychology. “Carla is building her professional growth in this area, and I believe that she has the leadership and advocacy skills needed to make contributions in Rhode Island and beyond.’’

Furey said Sanchez was instrumental in advocating for a bilingual school psychology training session that RIC hosted in January. This summer Sanchez plans to attend a three-day training at the National Association of School Psychologists Public Policy Institute to build education public policy and grassroots advocacy skills in school psychology.

The Campus Spirit Award was presented to Student Community Government President Jose Rosario, on the strength of a glowing nomination letter by Vincent Bohlinger, associate professor and director of film studies at RIC.

“Jose is the absolute embodiment of all that is possible and great about Rhode Island College,’’ Bohlinger wrote. “I haven’t had the pleasure of having Jose in any class but I know him through my work as vice chair of College Council, where Jose is one of two student members. He has been very active all year in trying to recruit students to serve on various committees across campus – no small task!’’

Bohlinger also lavished praise on Rosario’s public speaking skills. “Holy cow – Jose is such a fantastic public speaker,’’ he exclaimed. “He is incredibly inspiring and uplifting, and he totally held his own on stage with our U.S. congressman and other speakers. I repeat: Holy cow! He has an extremely bright future ahead.’’

Finally, Delta Phi Epsilon sorority took home the Organization Outreach Award. The group was singled out for its philanthropic work raising funds for soup kitchens, the Breast Cancer Walk and Cystic Fibrosis.

Gianna Cairo, Delta Phi Epsilon president, said the group abides by “the five S’s’’ – sisterhood, self, service, scholarship and social. “Each of these five S’s give us an opportunity to make positive connections with people at the college and in the community,’’ she said. “We hope to be role models for future students at RIC and help them achieve their highest education.’’