Three McDaniel College students came away with national awards and scholarships this semester.
Junior Jocelyn Diaz was awarded a Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Dijon, France; sophomore Jasmin Chavez is one of 50 students from across the country selected as a 2017 national fellow for Young People For; and senior Alexaundria Leonard is one of 15 students from across the nation selected for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Japan exchange program.
Chavez, of Falls Church, Virginia, is a double-major in political science and Spanish, according to a news release from the college. The Young People For fellowship is a leadership development program that "identifies, engages and empowers the newest generation of progressive leaders to create lasting change in their communities," according to the release.
The McDaniel senior already has created her own program, and hopes through this program to expand it. In her hometown, she said, she created a program around science technology engineering and math for children in elementary and middle school through a Griswold-Zepp award from McDaniel.
Chavez also had the kids playing sports and staying active during her summer program.
"I really want to help more," Chavez said.
It just really impacts your life to help kids in need, she said, and to really make a difference in their life. Giving back isn't just important, she said, it's "necessary."
"Why shouldn't I give back to my community? I need to," she added.
Fellows are offered training, technical support and media assistance as they implement a community project they design themselves called a Blueprint for Social Justice, according to the release.
"It feels like a dream," Chavez said of getting the fellowship.
At McDaniel, Chavez is founder and president of the college's League of United Latin American Citizens chapter, and is also a Global Fellow and is currently serving as an advisory board member for the college's Global Bridge program for U.S.-based students who were born or grew up abroad or are bicultural or binational, according to the release.
She is a resident adviser for first-year students, an admissions ambassador and a senator in the Student Government Association, according to the release.
And just last week, she was named a Newman Civic Fellow.
Diaz, of Reisterstown, is among 850 recipients from across the country who were selected to receive the $2,500 scholarship, according to a release from the college. She's a triple major in business administration, accounting economics and French.
She plans to study at the International Center for French Studies at the University of Burgundy for 12 weeks during the summer, where she will take courses, as well as fulfill Gilman-required volunteer and service projects, according to the release.
Diaz, who grew up in El Salvador and moved to the United States when she was 11, said getting this scholarship is both an honor and a blessing.
"I never thought that I'd be able to study abroad," she said.
The junior is president of the Campus Catholic Ministry and is past president of both the Hispano-Latino Alliance and Palabras to Words, a student organization that tutors native Spanish speakers in English, according to the release. She serves as resident assistant and an outreach specialist with the Wellness Center at McDaniel and is also a French tutor.
This scholarship and chance to study in France is the final thing she needs to really become fluent in the French language, Diaz said. But it's not just the scholarship, she said.
"You're not only getting the scholarship, but you also get the chance to network," Diaz added. "It's just unbelievable."
Diaz is among five McDaniel students who have earned Gilman Scholarships as juniors at the college, according to the release. Others include 2012 graduates Rhaelynn Givens, who studied in Budapest, Hungary, and Izabella Baer-Benchoff, who traveled to Amman, Jordan; Hayoung Kim, a 2013 graduate, who studied in Beijing; and Serra Berry, a 2015 graduate, who traveled to Costa Rica.
Diaz is the first in her family to go to a four-year college, she said. And it wouldn't have been possible without McDaniel, she said.
"It's definitely going to be a life-changing experience," Diaz added.
Leonard, a Baltimore native who's majoring in political science and international studies, was one of 15 students in the country selected for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Japan exchange program, which consisted of an expense-paid trip to Tokyo from March 14-24 this year.
The trip was "very nice," she said, and she "really enjoyed herself."
It was nice to be with an all-black delegation traveling to Japan, Leonard added.
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This initiative, in conjunction with the Embassy of Japan and the Japanese International Cultural Center, aims to "increase African-American interest in and exposure to the culture of Japan, thereby expanding opportunities for African-Americans in an era of increasing globalization," according to the release.
"I was honored to be a part of that," Leonard said.
The senior is looking into graduate school and is hoping to go into political public affairs, she said. Traveling provides transferable skills, she added, like flexibility and understanding. These are skills she can take with her as she graduates, Leonard said.
"This experience has given me a first-hand opportunity to see someone else's culture," she said. "It was just a wonderful opportunity."