We are thrilled to introduce the four nominees for the prestigious ATHENA Young Professional Award. These women have accomplished amazing things both at their respective universities and in our community. Take a few minutes to learn more about each one of these shining stars. Congratulations to all four women on their nominations!
Silenia Guerrero-Vasquez, Edinboro University Silenia is a senior at Edinboro University, majoring in both Social Work and Criminal Justice and minoring in Sociology and Psychology. Silenia has also completed an Associate's Degree in Arts in Human Services. Silenia was selected as one of two student representatives to serve on a University-wide Strategic Planning Committee, acting as powerfully vocal advocate for students, particularly on the issues of community development and the needs of underrepresented minority students. She holds professional leadership positions with several campus organizations including the "Take a Stand Against Sexual Violence" club, Phi Alpha Honor Society for Social Workers, and Latino Student Organization. In her role with the "Take a Stand Against Sexual Violence" club, she led the charge to partner with the Crime Victim Center in Erie and the Safe Journey organization in Union City to provide internal and external support resources to sexual assault survivors. She is also working closely with the newly hired Chief Diversity Officer of Edinboro to expand membership in the Take a Stand organization and increase awareness of support resources in the communities surrounding campus. She is also a member of Edinboro's chapter of ATHENA Connections, the National Society of Leadership and Success, the International Student Affiliation, the Social Work Club, and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Silenia is currently serving as an enforcement intern for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Philadelphia. In this role, she assists with mediations and settlement conferences, collecting information about equal opportunity complaints. She also serves as a translator and interpreter and reviews inquiries and inputs data to assist with investigations.
Tejita Rajbhandari, Gannon University Tejita, originally from Nepal, is a senior at Gannon University majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Information Systems. Tejita serves as the Vice President of Outreach for GUBotDev, an organization focused on technology, whose mission is to serve those who seek technology and find it out of reach. In this role, she has effectively created and maintained relationships with key organizations in the Erie community and abroad to provide educational resources to those in need including the Erie immigrant and refugee community, high school teachers, and organizations like Upward Bound. She has also developed curricula to support educational needs of organizations like the Girl Scouts (creating a class and Upward Bound. Tejita is a tireless advocate for Open Source STEM education and strives to deliver it to communities that do not have access to such resources. In the last year alone, she participated in or led many events including several robotics classes for the Girl Scouts, the Penn State Behrend STEM Fair, the Manufacturing Day Expo, Science Saturday for Upward Bound, and Iroquois High School's Governor's STEM Competition preparation. She has also organized and deployed students to provide rare multilingual STEM education to English-as-a-Second-Language students as well as to Syrian refugees in Jordan during a July 2019 trip. Tejita is also active in Gannon's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and maintains a 3.89 GPA.
Abigail Harrington, Mercyhurst University Abby is a senior at Mercyhurst University, majoring in History and Religious Studies. A very active student on campus an in the community, Abby has participated in countless organizations and events including Mercyhurst Youth Retreats and Catholic Leadership Education as a group leader, the Mercyhurst Leadership Development program, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, and Theta Alpha Kappa Religious Studies Honor Society. Abby has also worked for several community organizations including the Erie Zoo as an educator, teaching children and the general public about animals and their habitats; as a Youth Minister for St. Luke Church, developing events and instruction for middle school students; a Religious Education Instructor for Our Lady of Peace Church, focused on the instruction of 6th grade students; a Museum Assistant at the Erie Children's Museum, facilitating events; and as a tutor for the JFK Center of Erie, working with students on homework assignments and providing social and emotional support to students. As her campus and community involvement demonstrate, Abby is driven by her faith and personal integrity to find opportunities to work with young people to educate and mentor their intellectual curiosity and personal ethical development. Abby maintains a 4.0 GPA and has been named to the Dean's List every semester at Mercyhurst.
Alexandra Sienerth, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College Alexandra is a senior at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College majoring in Marketing and Communications and minoring in Civic and Community Engagement. On campus, she has served as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the last two years and is the current Co-President for the student-led service organization Reality Check. In these roles, she created all digital and print promotions for all events and opportunities surrounding the club's activities, recruiting other students to share in volunteer and service opportunities. She was the outward voice of the organization and during that time, the organization saw an unprecedented number of of applicants for the Alternative Spring Break service trips. Alexandra is also instrumental in planning, coordinating, facilitating, and leading the Alternative Spring Break service trip each year. She helped plan the itinerary for the group and lead nightly post-service reflection and discussion to contextualize the experience for trip participants. She has served as one of only four student leaders on service trips to Houston, TX following Hurricane Harvey, San Francisco/Oakland, CA to address homelessness and food insecurity, Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and will serve as a leader for the 2020 trip, which is still in the planning phase. Alexandra currently interns with the Erie Community Foundation, assisting with efforts to effectively communicate with stakeholders and community partners to better the lives of local citizens. She has also completed the Behrend Honors Program and is frequently named to the Dean's List.
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