Students, staff, faculty honored at virtual annual awards recognition

screenshot of students participating in virtual recognition event

Alumni and Development Specialist Deborah Brandt Johnson, second row from top, far right screen, delivers the Graduation Oath to departing students at the Student Recognition Dinner.

Credit: Josh McAuliffe

DUNMORE, Pa. — In an inspiring show of support, a large contingent of Penn State Scranton’s campus community logged onto their computers the evening of April 22 to celebrate the accomplishments of the student body.

More than 140 people virtually attended the campus’ annual Student Recognition Dinner, which was held on ZOOM due to ongoing stay-at-home measures put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

With the exception of the catered dinner, the event featured all of its usual highlights, as it honored students who have distinguished themselves through their campus involvement, academic rigor and community service.

In addition to the awards, Fred Aebli, lecturer in information sciences and technology (IST) and IST program co-coordinator, delivered a moving and motivational speech to the crowd, while Deborah Brandt Johnson, alumni and development specialist, issued the customary Graduation Oath to departing students.

Matthew Nied, assistant director of student services and engagement, started off the proceedings with remarks that called attention to the campus’ current reality and the indomitable spirit that allowed the event to go on, albeit in a different context.

“Although we are not enjoying a wonderful meal together this year, we still have some really great reasons to get together and celebrate all of you and your hard-earned accomplishments,” Nied said. “We couldn’t be more proud of you and your resiliency as we all transitioned to this online remote distance learning and engagement.”

A campus alumnus, Aebli touched on his student years during the late 1980s, jokingly lamenting that he unsuccessfully applied to be a Lion Ambassador. From there, he finished his degree at University Park, served in the Marine Corps and worked in the private sector before his path brought him back to the campus two decades ago.

After having the crowd take an interactive survey on their favorite elements of Penn State life, Aebli acknowledged that the past month of remote delivery has been difficult for students, faculty and staff alike.

However, he stressed, the bonds forged by the campus community are resilient to the effects of the virus.

“We’ve done such a great job here with student activities that it’s reflecting how much we want to be back together on campus,” Aebli said. “I’ve been here 20 years, and why do I keep coming back? It’s you, the students — your energy keeps me young. You’re the glue and the binding that makes the University experience better.”

From there, various campus staff members passed out a litany of awards recognizing students for individual and group achievement.

Kalei Kowalchik was the recipient of the Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award, which is given to the student who has most improved the reputation of the University through extracurricular activities.

Lauren Sciabbarrasi received the Patrick J. Rose Award for Excellence in Student Leadership and Service, which recognizes students who have excelled in leadership and service to the campus community. Tabitha Boyd was the recipient of the Penn State Alumni Association Greater Scranton Chapter’s Pride of the Lions Award.

Campus benefactor and current business student Eric Linde was on hand to acknowledge the students who participated in this year’s Linde Mentoring Program: Luci Polanco, Ryan Choa, Deymeliz Desarden-Ruperto, Noah Krehel and Bryan Melliand.

The campus’ Information Technology (IT) staff and Kimberly Flanders, assistant teaching professor of corporate communication and program coordinator, were the recipients of the Excellent Service to Students Staff and Faculty awards, respectively.

In addition, the Student Government Association (SGA) handed out its awards and held its traditional swearing-in ceremony for new officers. Outgoing SGA President Emily Scarfo swore in new executive board members Harshil Patel, president; Marissa Boyd, vice president; Ella Maqueto, chief justice; Olivia Maikranz, chief of staff; and Meryam Meawad, treasurer.

In addition, Scarfo recognized outgoing board members Harshil Patel, vice president; Marissa Boyd, chief of staff; Dan York, treasurer; Luci Polanco, public relations director; and Taylor Bronson, chief justice.

The other award recipients were:

2019–20 campus THON team: Dancers David Jobs, Alicia Santarsiero, Lauren Rzucidlo and John Squatrito, and co-chairs Katie Walsh and Dana Beecroft

Unsung Hero Award: Huynh "Quinn" Nguyen, Luci Polanco, Harshil Patel and Anthony Keith

Rising Star Award: Megan Lucy, Maria Veniamin, Dan York, Deymeliz Desarden-Ruperto and Amanda Moody

Above and Beyond Award: Tabitha Boyd, Jordan Symonies, Brooke Rutledge, Caitlyn Powell, Brooklynn Miller, Krutik Solanki and Diego Romero

Good Samaritan Award: Ryan Choa

Student Activity Fee Committee Appreciation Award: Andrew Faist, Bryan Melliand, Dhara Patel, Dylan Newcomer, Shane Welcome, Tabitha Boyd, and Dan York, co-chair

Student Facility Fee Committee Appreciation Award: Emily Scarfo, Shannon Henderson, Shanie Mohamed, Gina Romano, Drashti Patel, Dhara Patel, Jay Patel and Bryan Melliand

Peer Mentors Appreciation Award: Betty Capozzi, Ryan Choa, Destyni Christiano, Shannon Henderson, Kalia Jefferson, Kalei Kowalchik, Amber Lomeo, Vanessa Mazur, Thomas Miller, Krina Patel, Sebastian Pruett, Rebecca Remsky, Maria Veniamin, Emily Scarfo, Lauren Sciabbarrasi and Morgan Silfies 

Peer Tutors Appreciation Award: Level 3: Taylor Bronson, Keegan Ficarro and Kalei Kowalchik; Level 2: Adriana Modesto and Rachel Veniamin; Level 1: Lucy Adams, Logan Desanto, Samantha Evanina, Andrew Faist, Maren Lindemuth, Meet Patel, Dakotah Sopko and Jordan Symonies; Initial Tutor Training: Xinyi Chen, Brianna Clark, Edward Gilmartin, Kelly Matute, Dhara Patel, Gautam Patel and Nicholas Pieshefski; Writer Center Tutors: Gabrielle McFey, Nancy Richards and Lauren Sciabbarrasi

Club Recognition Awards: Black Student Union, Blue & White Society, Business, Corporate Communication Club, Campus Activities Board, Cheerleading, Chess Club, Engineering Club, HDFS Community Club, Indian Student Association, IST Club, LEG, Lending a Helping Paw, Lion Ambassadors, LGBTQA, Psychology Club, Student Organization of Latinos, Student Nurses’ Association, Table Tennis Club, THON, Young Republicans Club

Excellence in Diversity Award:  Deymeliz Desarden-Ruperto

Outstanding Educational Program: HDFS Community Club — Educational Awareness Series

Best Fundraising Event: IST Club — Pie in the Face fundraiser

Best Club THON Contribution:  Engineering Club — Root Beer Float fundraiser

Community Impact Award: Student Organization of Latinos

Club Event of the Year: Young Republicans Club — Veterans Christmas Dinner

Best Club Event: Indian Student Association — Diwali celebration

Club Collaboration: Campus Activities Board, LGBTQA, Student Organization of Latinos, THON, and League of Extraordinary Gamers — Holidays Around the World

Lion Ambassadors: Antonia Corma, Maren Lindemuth, Jay Patel, Sonyia Patel, Zhi Xin "Lin" Zou

Senators for Business: Noah Krehel and Ryan Bamert

Senators for Change of Campus: Jay Patel and Soniya Patel

Senators for Corporate Communication: Maria Veniamin and Angelina Palma

Senators for Division of Undergraduate Studies: Kunj Patel and Quinn Nguyen

Senators for Biology and Science: Matthew Moran and Jordan Symonies

Senator for English/Letters, Arts and Sciences: Gabrielle McFey

Senator for Human Development and Family Studies: Cheyenne Romano

Senator for Information Sciences and Technology: Thomas Miller

Senators for Nursing: Shannon Talarico and Arianne Grilli

Senator for Psychology: Shannon Henderson