SRU’s ‘Rising Stars’ shine bright at award ceremony


rising star awardees 2016

The 2015-16 Rising Star Award winners were honored at a celebration April 27 in the Smith Student Center.

April 28, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Imagine gazing up into the evening sky and wishing upon your very own star. For a group of Slippery Rock University students, that idea has become reality after being recognized as stars themselves at the 2015-16 "Rising Star Ceremony" April 27 in the Smith Student Center.

The Rising Star awards, sponsored by AVI Fresh, the University's contract food vendor, are presented to students that influence positive change, inspire peers, faculty, and professional staff and effectively delegate, communicate and empower organization's members. The recipients are required to balance academic life with leadership opportunities and stand out within their organizations. Each recipient received a certificate naming their star and a map showing where their star is located.

This year's AVI Rising Star awards went to:

  • Colleen Dougherty, a freshman math major from Pittsburgh;
  • Megan Frisco, a senior recreational therapy major from Oxford;
  • Samantha Hartz, a freshman resort, recreation and hospitality major from Weatherly;
  • Dallas Kline, a sophomore sport management major from Spring Grove;
  • Brandon Quinn, a senior public health major from Uniontown;
  • Samantha Rivet, a senior business administration major from Twinsburg, Ohio; and
  • David Tini, a senior music education major from Altoona

Rising Star Awards were also presented in the Student Leader of the Year, the Silent Inspiration and the Student Community Service categories.

Mary Miskinis, a senior early childhood development major from Leechburg, was named SRU's Student Leader of the Year at the event, which also recognized a number of University organizations for their programming and campus and community service. Faculty and staff were also recognized for their service.

In receiving the Student Leader of the Year Award, Miskinis, who has served as president for SRU's chapter of the National Science Teachers Association, was recognized by her peers for proactive communication that allowed the chapter to raise funds for the groups' participation in the presentation of science activities at a variety of local school districts.

Miskinis also organized the chapter's hosting of 300 Girl Scouts for an "Invention Convention Day" that allowed the scouts to earn four science badges.

Kyla Calhoun, a junior exercise science major from Stafford, Virginia, was presented with the Silent Inspiration Award, given to an SRU student who has served his or her organization in an unassuming and quiet manner. The award is for a student who has not yet been in a leadership role, but through a commitment of time and energy he or she has made an impact on the organization and the University community.

Calhoun, a First-Year Leader Scholar Program mentor, was noted as being someone with a "...radiant personality that is extremely well organized. She inspires all of the FYLSP mentors to be better in every facet of life. Though she may not be the most outspoken person, she speaks her mind and is open with everyone."

Calhoun's nominator noted that students have learned "how to be professional, polite and strong," while coworkers have learned "how to be sweet, humble and helpful" from her.

Susan Dalessandro, a senior music therapy-voice major from Sharon, received the Student Community Service Award that is presented to a student who makes service a priority. The award is given to a student who has made an impact on an organization, community or agency serving as a positive role model and has boosted courage, spirit and hope in other individuals.

Dalessandro, president of the Rotaract Club at SRU, was described by nominators as "selfless in devoting countless hours to volunteering opportunities and helping to raise hundreds of dollars for local substance abuse programs." Another nominator wrote of her: "(She) demonstrates leadership excellence and gives generously and cheerfully of her time in service to others," noting her direct involvement in a number of events, including Empty Bowls, the Rotaract Dance Marathon and a canned food drive for the Feed My Sheep Food Cupboard.

Cassandra Eisenreich, instructor of music, received the Club Adviser of the Year Award, created in recognition of an adviser who goes beyond the required duties of the adviser position and provided consistent service and guidance to the students in their organization while serving as a role model.

Eisenreich was named for her work as the faculty adviser for the SRU chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon International Music Fraternity. Under her direction, membership has grown and the group has taken a more active role in the community. As an example, one nominator noted the group's visits to Children's Hospital during the holiday season to play carols for the patients.

Wendy Leitera, business manager for SRU's Student Government Association, and Charlie Judge, assistant director in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, received the Exceptional Service to Students Award for Staff for their commitment and devotion to mentoring and caring for students; providing consistent and extraordinary guidance and professional support; providing special attention and mentoring to others they worked with, regardless of status or setting.

Christine Pease-Hernandez, assistant professor of communication, was named recipient of the Exceptional Service to Students for Faculty Award. She was cited as an "advocate for all students, who encourages inclusion and reminds all students to let their voices be heard, while sharing her contagious positivity."

A number of awards were presented to campus organizations, including:

Student Organization of the Year: First Year Leader Scholar Program for working tirelessly to help better first-year students and encouraging them to move outside their comfort zones and create positive interactions with others they might not typically do;

  • Outstanding Cultural Event Award: Krista Klukan for her "Global Etiquette Dinner";
  • Service Event Award: Building D for their coloring book event;
  • Collaborative Event Award: Residence Life, Association of Residence Hall Students, and NRHH for their Zumbathon event;
  • Entertainment Event Award: Green and White Society for the "SRU Birthday Party";
  • Educational Event Award: SRU Chapter of Pennsylvania of Music Educators for their Dr. Boonshaft event;
  • Fundraising Event Award: Colleges Against Caner for raising more than $40,000 for Relay for Life;
  • Residence Life Event Award: Building E for their "All Hall Social" for the Salvation Army"
  • Outstanding Greek Organization Award: Alpha Xi Delta Women's Fraternity for service work with Autism Speaks through hosting of awareness events and various fundraisers; and
  • Living Learning Community of the Year: The Education LLC Community Assistants for providing their residents with an abundance of learning experiences and tools, including: programming, intentional conversations with residents and fostering an environment of teamwork and collaboration.

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 |