Five Northern Illinois University students who excel in and out of the classroom have been selected as recipients of the 2012 Forward, Together Forward Scholarships.
The recipients – Rachael Bardell, Jenifer Camery, Daihee Cho, Eric Solomon and Faith Stauersboll – each will receive a one-time scholarship of $4,000 for the 2012-13 academic year.
“The Forward Together Forward Scholarships, which honor the memory of the students we lost on Feb. 14, 2008, is among the highest honors NIU can award to current students,” said Provost Raymond Alden.
“This year’s recipients were selected on the basis of character, service, leadership, academic achievements, intellectual curiosity, work ethic and regard for others. Each of these outstanding individuals is a living example of the true meaning of ‘Huskie pride.’ ”
An initial field of 30 applicants applied for the scholarships. Each wrote short essays on what it means to be an NIU Huskie; on how tragedy shapes character; and about their dreams for the future.
They were also asked how they will honor the memories of Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter.
“This year was extremely competitive,” said Anne Hardy, director of the NIU Scholarship Office. “The committee found it very difficult to make the final decision because all of the students were of such high caliber.
“All five of the scholarship winners have such pride in being an NIU Huskie,” Hardy added. “I would say they’re truly representative of the heart and soul of our institution.”
Funding for the scholarships was provided by an unsolicited outpouring of generosity by friends of the university who wanted to memorialize the fallen students. About 1,800 donors helped build the scholarship fund to more than $700,000.
Here is a closer look at the five Forward, Together Forward Scholarship recipients:
For someone who prefers to work quietly behind the scenes, Rachael Bardell makes a huge impression on those she meets.
Whether serving as a peer instructor helping new students make the transition to campus; guiding freshmen and their families across campus as an orientation leader; planning programs for her fellow honor students as an Honors Program house leader, she has always impressed those around her with her quiet determination and focus on serving others.
“I have been truly amazed by her courage, drive and humility. Rachel is a bright, kind, well liked young lady, yet there isn’t an ounce of ego in her,” said Kate Braser, who oversaw Bardell’s work in the honors program. “She is a perfect model of someone who leads by example.”
Bardell’s commitment to serving others extends beyond campus borders. She has tutored grade school and middle school students at a DeKalb Latino center, Conexion Comunidad, done volunteer work at animal rescue operations and women’s shelters (through the Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honor Society), and serves as a Northern Light Ambassador.
She also enrolled in an alternative spring break program, traveling to the Dolphin Research Center in Florida last year.
A senior majoring in mathematical sciences, from Dakota, Ill., Bardell, is funding her own college education. Her outstanding commitment to community and campus service, coupled with her perfect grade point average have helped her earn a number of scholarships including an Alumni Merit Scholarship, the Patricia Bragg Expendable Scholarship and the Gail Master’s Gallagher Memorial Scholarship.
It’s a level of commitment that others may find daunting, but it all brings her closer to a goal. “I want to graduate with more than just a degree,” she says. “I want to know that I did something; that through my involvement and volunteering someone had a better day, an easier transition to college and a better college experience.”
Jenifer Camery defines the word “busy.”
Not only does the Batavia resident have a full load of classes in her elementary education major, but she volunteers for the Safe Passage children’s program, donates time to Special Olympics and is an active member of the Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society.
With all that, she also takes part in the Dynamic Dance Allstars, presides over the NIU Educators’ Club, an organization she founded, and works part time at the Founders Memorial Library.
Along with education, dance is her passion.
“She is literally the Energizer Bunny for (NIU’s Alpha Sigma Alpha chapter)” said Kristin Huben, the chapter’s adviser. “Jeni never succumbs to pressure or exhaustion. I am constantly impressed by watching Jeni take what she is learning in her educational coursework and applying it to our chapter women.”
When the junior graduates in May 2013, she most likely will continue being just as busy and outstanding as an alumna.
She plans to work with children in a Chicago elementary school and create a “Freedom Writers” environment where students learn, share, trust and accept their classmates no matter what their backgrounds.
Eventually, she hopes to return to graduate school and study special education. When she graduates with her master’s degree, she hopes to work as a classroom teacher and a dance coach.
“Dance has been such a positive influence for me. One of the experiences I have had at Northern Illinois University is participating in the Northern Dance Theatre’s Art for Life Performance, which is a student-run performance that raises awareness for HIV/AIDS,” she said.
“I would love to one day open my own dance studio or be a coach at the local high school dance team bringing these types of experiences to kids. Dance and helping kids grow are my passions in life.”
Daihee Cho moved to the United States as an eager 16-year-old high school student from Seoul, South Korea.
Unable to speak English, he was limited to facial expressions and body language as his primary means of communication. Without the nearby support of family and friends, he felt alone and scared in his new surroundings.
His determination and enthusiasm for being involved in his community helped subdue his initial discomfort. He quickly established relationships with high school classmates and faculty members, and by the end of his first full year, he was president of the student council at Timothy Christian High School in Elmhurst.
As he transitioned to life in college, Cho once again found himself forced to adapt to new surroundings. This time, though, Cho had a blueprint for success following his high school experiences.
“Since it was another new start for me and I didn’t know anyone, I was afraid to get involved,” Cho said. “However, that fear could not stop me.”
Cho, who is majoring in accountancy, wasted little time establishing relationships across the NIU campus community, sacrificing personal time for the betterment of NIU and the local community.
He joined eight different organizations as a first-year student, while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. His dedication and involvement helped earn him the Freshman Honors Enhancement Award and a Freshman Leadership Award in 2011.
“Strong work ethic defines Daihee Cho,” College of Business instructor Dennis Barsema said. “He is a tireless worker, involved in a number of community and academic programs and groups, and maintains an extremely high GPA.”
Currently, Cho is a member of the Campus Security and Environmental Quality Committee and the Community Standards and Student Advisory Board. He is the president of the Residence Hall Association, the vice president of the Honors Student Association, a Northern Light Ambassador and a Research Rookie.
“He is one of the finest young men I have seen on this campus,” Barsema said.
Someday, Eric Solomon hopes to broadcast games to sports fans across the nation.
For now, he works quietly to make the NIU campus, the DeKalb community and his hometown of Northbrook better places to live and learn.
His passion for volunteering was kindled when he was 13 and began accompanying his father to help out at a homeless shelter in Palatine, where he worked with and mentored children. “Ever since then I have reached out to other people with special needs, children who need mentoring and comforting, and volunteering wherever needed to assist those who can use a hand,” says Solomon.
Toward that end, he spends time each week working with children at the Hope Haven shelter in DeKalb, and working with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization in DeKalb, which named him its Big Brother of the Year for 2011.
He also frequently takes the train back to Northbrook on weekends to work with Northwest Special Recreation Association, where he has volunteered since the age of 16.
“Eric makes a difference in the lives of all who meet him,” said Sandra Dawson, an instructor in NIU’s Department of History. “Whether as a Big Brother, a lifeguard, as a mentor to homeless children or as an encouragement to abused women, he has made a difference in the lives of many more people than he realizes.”
The Forward, Together Forward Scholarship is a stepping stone toward helping others in bigger and better ways after graduation, says Solomon, who is majoring in journalism. “If I realize my dream of becoming a professional broadcaster I can work with many more organizations and reach out to even more people as a mentor and role model. I can make my way in life, and at the same time help many others make theirs.”
Growing up in sports-crazy Belvidere, Faith Stauersboll chose a different path than every other child she knew at school: dance.
Her decision meant almost-daily practice at a dance studio, where she missed out on the bonding of a team. When she reached high school, she created the free Leap of Faith Dance Program that teaches children not only how to perform the art she loves but gives them the “team experience” she always wanted.
“(My) program has been growing ever since and is now the most in-demand program at the school and church,” said Stauersboll, who’s already volunteered nearly 800 hours. “The girls now have strong friendships through this class, and dance is finally accepted in the community I grew up in.”
The sophomore nursing major hopes to make similar impacts at NIU, where she is active in the Honors Program, and in her eventual life in health care.
“A nurse is a person who helps people through the worst day of their life,” she said. “I want to be that person. I want people to be able to trust in me to make them as comfortable as possible.”
Stauersboll is a leader in the Honors House and vice president of both the Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honors Society and the Honors Student Association. An essay she wrote during freshman English was published in NIU’s “Y1 Writes” book.
She volunteered for Conexion Communidad and the Honors Program’s Birthday Boxes project and performed with the Animation Dance Team, where she learned more about Filipino culture.
“Faith’s motivation comes from within,” said Emily Del Monaco, former honors program coordinator. “Faith actively seeks out challenges both inside and outside of the classroom due to the sense of fulfillment she receives from knowing she has done her personal best and given each day her all.”