Five Elmhurst University seniors received Founders Awards and the Bluejay of the Year and Senior of the Year awards for their outstanding service and leadership. The awards are considered among the University’s top honors for individual achievement.
The winners were announced during the Elmhurst University 2022 Student Leadership Awards, held earlier this month. A number of awards were given out at the ceremony, which celebrates campus leaders, organizations and initiatives that support student success and enhance the student experience. Recognition went to Bluejay First mentors, Orientation Student Leaders, outstanding Greek chapters, athletic scholars and more.
The Founders Awards, among the University’s oldest and most prestigious, includes three awards. Each recognizes self-initiated service that brings about change and embodies humane values. One Founders Award is given for service to the campus community; a second is given for service to the greater society; and a third, the Cureton Award, is given for service to the global community. Candidates are nominated by members of the University community.
- The Founders Award for Service to the University Community was given to Anayeli Huerta, a member of the Elmhurst cheerleading team, an Orientation Student Leader, and vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Elmhurst U. chapter of Alpha Phi sorority. She also has volunteered with the University’s Dare To Dream mentorship program, and with CREO DuPage and the York Literacy Program. A first-generation college student from Hanover Park, Ill., Huerta plans to pursue a graduate degree in speech-language pathology at Northwestern University.
- The Founders Award for Service to Greater Society was given to Norbaya Durr, of Chicago, who recently received a Fulbright U.S. Student award to teach English in Botswana for the 2022-2023 academic year. A double major in biology and English, Durr is the University’s first woman of color to be named a Fulbright U.S. Student Scholar, and the first Fulbright Scholar to represent the University in Africa. As a student, Durr has presented scholarly research regionally and nationally, and was an active member of the Inner City Muslim Action Network.
- The Cureton Award for Service to the Global Community was given to Juan Sandoval, of Chicago, who majored in political science, urban studies and philosophy. A first-generation college student, Sandoval transferred to Elmhurst and immediately engaged with campus life. He was involved in the Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Theta Kappa honor societies, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Student Government Association, and Senators for Student Services. He also participated in a fair housing internship and a fellowship offered by the University of California-Berkeley’s Public Policy and International Affairs program.
BLUEJAY OF THE YEAR
The Bluejay of the Year award is given to a student who clearly demonstrates what it means to be an Elmhurst Bluejay. The honoree is welcoming and enthusiastic, always exhibiting Bluejay spirit. They are heavily involved in campus life, hold integrity in high esteem, and are always mindful that their actions are aligned with the Bluejay tradition.
Mason Garcia, a cybersecurity major from Orland Park, Ill., won this year’s Bluejay of the Year award. Garcia has served as an Orientation Student Leader and was active in various groups on campus, including Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. He also served as a student ambassador, and “never declined an opportunity to assist and lend a hand,” his nominators said.
SENIOR OF THE YEAR
The Senior of the Year award is a highly sought-after award whose winner is selected by a special committee of the Elmhurst University Alumni Association, which created the award in 1992 to honor the senior who typifies the Elmhurst University graduate. The winner excels in academics and campus involvement, and is passionate about continuing the Elmhurst University tradition.
Sonali Rajput, a biochemistry major from Berkeley, Ill., was named the 2022 Senior of the Year. A first-generation college student, Rajput was involved in the Union Board (serving as president the past two years) and the Student Government Association, and founded the Hindu Students Association. As an EC Connection and Bluejay First mentor, she helped other students build their campus network, and offered strategies for success based on her experiences, especially during the pandemic. After graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in nursing at Elmhurst.