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Students and faculty recognized at 16th annual ceremony
Men in ties and buttoned suits accompanied flawlessly styled women as the elevator attendants opened doors to the third floor event. Cameras flashed on a red carpet which sprawled out in front of a large black and white backdrop.
The 16th Annual Achievement Awards were underway at the Williams Stadium Club Pavilion, Saturday, April 9, and everyone was a star. Guests ate full four-course meals as announcers honored those students, alumni and faculty who have embodied the mission of Liberty University as ethnic minority and international students.
The Center for Multicultural Enrichment (Center4ME), whose mission statement is to “unify the various cultural and ethnic populations on the campus by overcoming divisions,” honored students, staff and alumni for their dedication to the enrichment and support of ethnic diversity, exemplary biblical integrity, academic excellence and Christian service.
“All of our nominees and finalists were just great,” said Center for ME’s Director Melany Pearl.
A record 4,407 votes were cast through an online system on Liberty’s website to decide the winners of three of the night’s awards.
The Faculty/Staff of the Year award went to Professor J.J. Cole who teaches freshman seminar and a stress management workshop at Liberty. According to Cole’s biography, she is an active supporter of Center4ME. Though she could not be at the awards ceremony, she was honored and said “culture is important to who we are and sociology should be applied. It needs to be felt.”
The Freshman of the Year award went to Sharon Chimere-Dan who is an international student from Johannesburg, South Africa. In addition to meeting the award requirements of having a 3.5 GPA or higher, having less than eight reprimands in a single semester and excelling in Christian Character, Chimere-Dan participates in campus programs including Campus Serve, intramural sports and Student Media Productions.
“I was surprised at winning, but pleasantly surprised,” Chimere-Dan said after receiving her award. “I’m really grateful they take the time to do things like this. Sometimes it can feel like no one cares. Even though you know that God’s watching, it’s nice to know that other people do take notice and want to encourage you in doing those things.”
The Christian Service Award was received by junior Lucas Wilson, a Canadian student from Toronto, Ontario. Wilson, who has traveled to Tanzania and Zanzibar with Extreme Impact Ministries, is currently a volunteer tutor with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lynchburg and acts as a student ambassador for Liberty in Canada, finds it important to involve international students in Center4Me events.
“I think it is important that international students are also included in the awards ceremony,” Wilson said. “I think that although Americans would not be able to tell that I am not American, there is a cultural barrier between other students and ourselves, so I appreciate being included.”
The Achievement Award was given to Carolyn Marcelo, a graduating senior. Marcelo has served as a prayer leader and is actively involved at Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) as a choir singer.
Marcelo choked back tears as she received her award, feeling thankful for the school and how the Lord has brought her to this point.
“I was really honoured to be involved all four years. I am just blessed to just have come here, to Liberty,” Marcelo said. “I always thought I would go to another school, but God had other plans.”
Marcelo referenced her life verse in gratitude to God, Luke 1:37.
“God’s plans are not to harm you,” Marcelo said. “He has a purpose for your life.”
Marcelo expressed appreciation to the Center4Me and their dedication to putting on the Achievement Awards event.
“It’s nice having all this support no matter what background you are,” Marcelo said. “It reminds you that no matter what background you are, it’s always possible to do great things.”
Pearl encourages all students to become involved in Center4Me events, no matter what citizenship and cultural background.
“One misnomer about the Center for Multicultural Enrichment is that we are here for students of color or ethnic minority but we really are here for the entire campus community and our internationals as well,” Peal said. “We really are an office for everyone. We are about promoting unity and celebrating cultural diversity, and as a body of Christ, we need to understand each other and celebrate each other and not be divided.”
Center4Me hosts a variety of events from movie nights, to discussion forums to upscale events like the Achievement Awards Ceremony.
“We do things that everyone is invited to,” Pearl said. “If we have a Hispanic heritage month event, we may have Native Americans there or if I am there as an African American, that is when the learning and education happens.”
To find out more about Center4Me and their future events visit firstname.lastname@example.org or call 434-592-4020.