Benedictine Academy Wins Award For Volunteer Service

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ELIZABETH–Benedictine Academy, an all-female Catholic college prep high school in Elizabeth, was recognized in Washington, D.C. as the National Jefferson Award “Best New School” in 2011 for Public Volunteer Service.

The Academy’s Campus Ministry Students in Action Leaders received the award during National Ceremonies for the Jefferson Awards, held in the nation’s capital June 20-21. Benedictine Academy was invited to attend the prestigious event because of the students’ exceptional hard work and award-winning programs on Anti-Bullying and Human Trafficking. The Jefferson Award, which is considered the Nobel Prize for Public Service, was founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Onassis, Sam Beard, and Senator Robert Taft, Jr.

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While in Washington for the ceremonies, Benedictine Academy Students in Action leaders were invited to speak before the U.S. Senate, to share their efforts in being global leaders of change for child slavery. Students in Action is a National Youth Leadership Program that provides high school students with the framework, new skills and tools to enable them to be agents of change in the world. On Capitol Hill, the students presented their Jefferson Awards National Report on volunteering and service in America. Benedictine Academy juniors Ariana Taveras of Newark and Andrea Mendoza of Union shared about the impact that the Students in Action program has had on the student body at their school, and how it has empowered them to take on global issues.

“Everything that we do, we try to do with great passion and great love and great force and intention,” Taveras stated. “We have felt extremely supported and encouraged in our service endeavors this year,” she added.

Each year, Jefferson Awards receives over 40,000 nominations for individuals, youth groups, athletes, and non-profit organizations that are making remarkable contributions in our world. This year’s 2011 National Winners also included the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg; Athlete Warrick Dunn; and Lifetime Jefferson Award winner, actress Marlo Thomas.

“It was such a privilege and an honor for our school to be one of the very few chosen to participate in such a prestigious event,” Benedictine Academy Campus Minister Linda Michalski noted. “We stood among the great people in our lifetime in our nation’s capital, walked in the shadows of every President of the United States of America, and listened to the countless inspiring stories of ordinary human beings making an extraordinary difference,” she added. It was a “truly humbling experience that has placed an awesome responsibility upon our shoulders and within our hearts,” Michalski said.

Earlier this year, Benedictine Academy won the 2011 New Jersey Regional Students in Action Competition, which resulted in the school receiving the GOLD Jefferson Award Medal. In addition, Michalski, who served as advisor to the students, was awarded the Jefferson Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award in May. The Campus Ministry Student Leaders were also recognized and awarded the NJ Governor’s Jefferson Award and the NJ Make Service Count Challenge Award for their outstanding volunteer efforts in Peace & Justice. By creating excitement and motivating students, Students in Action helps schools create a system that maximizes volunteerism and learning. Student leadership is at the heart of the program. Student leaders receive extensive training and are assisted by a faculty coordinator/ mentor, such as Michalski for Benedictine Academy.

“We thank God for this amazing opportunity to be his servant leaders,” Michalski stated. “It is part of our school’s mission belief statements to love to learn, and, to learn to love,” she pointed out. “Our entire school community’s passion to become a voice for the voiceless was hope-filled because of our partnership with Jefferson Awards. Jefferson Awards inspired us to dream big,” Michalski said.

(l-r) Jan Chavez-Arceo, Jefferson Awards Goodwill Ambassador to the Philippines; Benedictine Academy Students in Action leaders Andrea Mendoza of Union and Ariana Taveras of Newark; Benedictine Academy Campus Minister Linda Michalski, in Washington, D.C. June 21 after Benedictine Academy was recognized as the National Jefferson Award “Best New School” in 2011 for Public Volunteer Service.

(l-r) Robert Sakowitz, Chair of the Jefferson Awards Board of Selectors; Benedictine Academy Students in Action Leaders Ariana Taveras and Andrea Mendoza; and Robert Ford, Executive Director of the “Jefferson Awards” for Public Service, at National Jefferson Awards ceremonies in Washington, D.C. June 21.

Benedictine Academy Students in Action Leaders Andrea Mendoza (left) and Ariana Taveras (right) with U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of NJ, at National Ceremonies for the Jefferson Awards, held in the nation’s capital, June 20-21. Benedictine Academy was invited to attend the prestigious event because of the students’ exceptional hard work and award-winning programs on Anti-Bullying and Human Trafficking. (All photos courtesy of Benedictine Academy)


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