For more than 20 years, Florida State University has recognized undergraduate students who exhibit a tremendous commitment to service through its annual President’s Undergraduate Humanitarian of the Year Program.
This year’s 11 nominees have done everything from starting their own nonprofits to supporting local migrants and refugees to being a camp counselor for children affected by their parent’s cancer.
Each school or college nominates one student to be the Humanitarian of the Year. Typically, students are recognized at an awards luncheon hosted by FSU President John Thrasher, and the student who best exemplifies commitment to service is named the President’s Undergraduate Humanitarian of the Year during the annual Student Leadership Awards.
This year, under current social distancing guidelines, students were recognized virtually by President Thrasher and their respective deans.
“Our distance at this time is itself an act of community service,” Thrasher said. “I want to thank each of our 11 college nominees for their efforts to bring people and causes together. Collectively, these nominees have dedicated more than 3,900 hours of service. But truthfully, it’s not their hours that we’re recognizing today. It’s their compassion, their understanding, and their ability to support positive and sustainable change by working with leaders in local, national and international communities.”
Each nominee receives a $200 donation in their name to the nonprofit agency of their choice. The overall winner receives an additional $1,000 donation to the nonprofit agency of their choice.
Myah Freeman, the nominee from the College of Fine Arts, received the 2020 President’s Undergraduate Humanitarian of the Year Award. Through FSU’s Global Scholars Program, she assisted an organization that aided the talibé children of Saint-Louis, Senegal, to gain the resources they lack. This school year, she also revived DeGraff Tunnel on FSU’s campus with six paintings, supporting the enhancement of the student experience.
“Doing service not only in the local community but as well as the global community is important because we are all given a gift,” Freeman said. “With this, we must fulfill our universal purpose of giving back.”
Christina Vallone was nominated by the College of Communication and Information. Proficient in American Sign Language (ASL), she supports and mentors local deaf and hard of hearing students and works with children affected by various disabilities to provide adaptive aquatic therapy. She has also served as a counselor at Camp Kesem, a free summer camp for children who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.
Vallone believes FSU creates and supports an environment for students to engage in service along with their academic endeavors.
“FSU’s emphasis on fostering an environment where students can pursue service, education and career endeavors ultimately provided me with the foundation necessary to uncover my desire to continuously serve individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, individuals impacted by disabilities and children affected by their parent’s cancer,” Vallone said.
Weston Dudley is this year’s nominee from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. He has served on the Student Engineering Leadership Board to help bridge the gap between the two university’s respective faculty and students, supported mental health and professional development efforts of the college and mentored and supported more than 120 students in various areas to help them be successful in life and the workforce.
“My charge to FSU is to look to those who sit beside you today and every day, and work to make an impact in their life,” Dudley said. “Start with your community, for compassion is like a ripple, one action creates a chain reaction that creates one ripple after the next. By impacting our community, we stand the chance to make a difference globally.”
View President Thrasher’s message here.
The nominees are:
Christina Vallone, College of Communication and Information
Vallone is a senior majoring in communication sciences and disorders with a minor in social welfare. She has served with Camp Kesem through its summer camp, which assists children affected by their parent’s cancer. Vallone also has worked with Swift Creek Middle School’s deaf education program, supporting and mentoring deaf and hard of hearing students in Leon County while demonstrating American Sign Language (ASL) proficiency. Vallone connects service to Florida State University through her involvement in Splash Pals at FSU by providing adaptive aquatic therapy to children affected by various disabilities. After graduation in May 2020, Vallone will serve the deaf and hard of hearing population of Tallahassee through audiology services. From there, she will then pursue her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology.
Molly McQueeney, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy
McQueeney is a junior majoring in economics and social work with a minor in mathematics. She has served with Darasa, a language support group to migrant and refugee K-12 students in Leon County Schools, since her freshman year. McQueeney also worked with Chios Eastern Shore Response Team in Greece during Summer 2019, providing emergency support to individuals living in the displacement camp on the island. McQueeney connects her service to Florida State University through her involvement with Darasa by recruiting FSU students to tutor with the organization and educating members of the FSU community on the vibrant migrant and refugee community in Tallahassee. As president of Darasa, McQueeney is continuing to communicate with Leon County Schools during the COVID-19 outbreak to see where Darasa can facilitate the transition to online learning for its students. After graduation in 2021, McQueeney hopes to pursue a graduate degree in economic development and work with nonprofit organizations and international aid agencies to support developing communities around the world.
Carlos Rodriguez, College of Business
Rodriguez is a third-year student majoring in management information systems and marketing in the College of Business with a minor in Italian studies. He has served with Camp Kesem through its counselor program, which assists children who have been affected by a parent’s cancer by providing guidance and friendship through and beyond that difficult experience. Rodriguez also has worked with PeaceJam, supporting local and regional students by empowering them to create social change projects within their communities with a focus on the United Nations’ 10 principles of the global compact. Rodriguez connects his service to Florida State University through his involvement in the Center for Leadership and Social Change by continuing to utilize the volunteer network and programs such as the Engage TLH program to routinely help the local community in his spare time. After graduation in 2021, Rodriguez hopes to use the knowledge acquired during his time at Florida State and aid the nonprofit industry with a concentration on education and empowerment of women and children.
Weston Dudley, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering
Dudley is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics. He has served with the Student Engineering Leadership Board through their Student Needs Team, which assists in bridging the horizontal gap between FAMU and FSU engineering students and the vertical gap between faculty and the students at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Dudley also has worked with the College of Engineering, supporting the mental health and professional development of the students in order to prepare them to become the engineers of tomorrow. Dudley connects his service to FSU through his involvement in Theta Tau by personally mentoring and training 120 students at different events covering topics such as career fair preparation, virtual networking, effective communication, mental health and financial literacy. After graduation in Spring 2020, Dudley hopes to continue to make an impact and lead as a manufacturing engineer for the E-2 Hawkeye reconnaissance plane for Northrop Grumman in St. Augustine, Florida, and pursue a career in entrepreneurship in student development.
Rebekah Hagans, College of Music
Hagans is a senior majoring in music therapy with a minor in psychology and has served as the student coordinator of the College of Music Board of Advisors. With this, Hagans has assisted in coordinating acclaimed university audition days as well as advising incoming first year and transfer students. Hagans also works with Alpha Mu Alpha serving as the student organization’s president to support camaraderie within the major, provide additional personal/professional growth opportunities, and to create local advocacy efforts for the field of music therapy. After graduation in Spring 2020, Hagans will intern with Big Bend Hospice to become a board-certified music therapist.
Haley Drew, College of Human Sciences
Drew is a junior majoring in exercise physiology with minors in chemistry and biology. She has served with Big Bend Hospice through their AmeriCorps program which assists them by providing support services for veterans and military families suffering from terminal illnesses. Drew has also worked with the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory supporting research in Meiofauna Ecology and Benthic Biodiversity. Drew connects her service to FSU through her involvement in Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society by leading food drives for the on-campus food bank, organizing road clean ups and coordinating events with The Kearney Center. After graduation in 2021, Drew hopes to enter the medical field as a physician.
Myah Freeman, College of Fine Arts (Recipient of the 2020 President’s Humanitarian of the Year Award)
Freeman is a third-year student majoring in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program at FSU. During the summer of 2019, she served with the nonprofit organization Maison de la Gare through the FSU Global Scholars Program. This organization assists in providing the talibé children of Saint-Louis, Senegal, with the necessary resources that they lack. This includes a formal education, food, medical treatment and much more. Freeman also worked with FSU’s Student Government Association to provide the DeGraff Tunnel with six paintings, supporting the enhancement of the student experience. Freeman connects her service to FSU through her involvement in ONF and CARE by making other students aware of such amazing service opportunities. After graduation in Spring 2021, Freeman hopes to expand her existing art business by teaching classes, doing mural work and using her art as a means of advocacy.
Tanieshia Legette, College of Education
Legette is a third-year student majoring in sport management and family child sciences through a dual-degree program. She has served with Boystown North Florida through FSU’s leadership certificate courses which assist with the foster care system. She also has worked with I9 sports which assist children with developing skills to play sports. Legette connects her service to FSU through Big Sister Little Sister, the leadership certificate and both of her majors by continuing to find opportunities to help the community and taking on unpaid internships. After graduation in 2021, Legette hopes to start a nonprofit and open a gym to help keep low-income children and at-risk kids off the streets, help them achieve their goals and give them access to resources that they do not have. She also plans to apply to Teach for America.
Cian Cranfield, College of Medicine
Cranfield is a junior majoring in interdisciplinary medical sciences with a focus in pre-clinical professions. He has worked with Camp Boggy Creek, a SeriousFun Children’s Network organization that serves children experiencing severe pediatric illness. He has also worked with the SSTRIDE program at FSU, serving as a mentor to local elementary school students from underserved communities near Tallahassee. Cranfield connects his service to FSU through his involvement with the College of Medicine and organizations like the Hang Tough Foundation. After graduation in 2021, Cranfield hopes to attend medical school to pursue a career in pediatrics.
Celina Meyer, College of Arts and Sciences
Meyer is a junior majoring in psychology and statistics with a minor in child development. She has served with Ventura Elementary through their extended day program, which assists in improving reading fluency and math skills in children who face grade retention. She also has worked with the Center for Translational Behavioral Science, supporting research that aims to promote healthy aging and resiliency through clinical intervention. Meyer connects her service to FSU though her involvement in the National Alliance on Mental Illness by promoting awareness about the stigma on mental illness around Florida State’s campus. After graduation in 2021, Meyer hopes to attend a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology.
Mia Bennett, College of Applied Sciences
Bennett is a senior majoring in recreation tourism and events at FSU Panama City. She has served her community by starting her own nonprofit, the Princesses of Paradise Pageant, which assists the special needs community with finding self-confidence in being unique. Bennett connected her service to FSU this past November when the fourth annual pageant was held there. Bennett credits her founding of the event to have led her to her chosen major and to studying at FSU. After graduation in 2020, Bennett hopes to expand her nonprofit outside of the annual event, and to become an advocate for the special needs community by promoting the importance of diversity and inclusion in an effort to create a world “where everyone deserves to be a princess.”