USA Today selects two 2010 grads for national academic team

Posted by Centre News in Academics, Fellowships and Honors, News 10 Jun 2010

raley_melissaEach year, USA Today honors students from around the country for extraordinary grades, leadership experiences, extracurricular activities and intellectual pursuits. This year, recent Centre graduates Melissa Raley ’10 of Shepherdsville, Ky., and Sami Sweis ’10, also of Shepherdsville, were selected for USA Today’s 2010 All-USA College Academic Honorable Mention Team.

Raley, who says she was both surprised and excited to have received such an honor, is thrilled that she is able to represent Centre on a national scale.

Because the academic team recognizes students who not only excel in the classroom but in other areas of college life as well, Raley was highly qualified for the honor. The many leadership positions she held at Centre include serving as president and service coordinator of the Centre Catholic Community, serving as a resident advisor, serving on the Student Mental Health Advisory Board, and participating in Centre’s choir.

“What’s really neat about this award is that it reflects how I was able to connect my community involvement and extracurricular passions with my academic work at Centre,” Raley says.

One example of this relationship between service and academics comes from Raley’s experiences in Mexico, where she studied abroad for CentreTerm 2009.

“The essay asked me to describe my most outstanding intellectual endeavor and how it may benefit society,” she says, “so I wrote about the academic internship I did in Merida, Mexico. I worked with EDGE Outreach, a non-profit in Louisville that I’ve been involved with for a number of years, and the Centro Marista de Desarrollo, the community development organization of Marist University in Merida. I helped work to install a water purification system in a developing community outside of Merida.”

Raley also made note of the service work she planned to complete in 2010.

“I mentioned that I’d be doing independent research during the 2010 CentreTerm in Costa Rica: in addition to co-leading a service trip for Berea College students and some other adults, I conducted research about how the water purification systems EDGE installs affect Costa Rican communities. With the support of my professors and the Centre administration, I was given the incredible opportunity to combine the humanitarian endeavors I’m passionate about with my academic pursuits.”

Having graduated from Centre in late May, Raley is currently applying for positions through AmeriCorps in the Washington, D.C. area. “I was accepted to Loyola University Chicago’s masters program in Social Justice and Community Development,” she says, “and over the coming year, I’ll work on finding funding for the program and plan to attend in the fall of 2011.”

sweis_samiSweis, who coincidentally attended grade school with Raley at St. Aloysius in Shepherdsville, says he shares Raley’s sentiment about being selected for the USA Today team. “I feel very humbled by the award since I’m sure many well-deserving college students from across the country applied. It’s a great honor,” he says.

While a student at Centre, Sweis held several leadership roles. He both founded and led the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, which participated in an alternative spring break on year in Eklutna, Alaska, doing community service with local tribes. He also served as a Writing Center consultant at the College for two years and served as first-year representative, information and technology chair and Speaker of the House for the Student Government Association.

Like many students, Sweis is grateful for the wealth of academic and extracurricular opportunities Centre provides, all of which, he says, taught him “how to think critically with a natural curiosity. I see learning not as a prerequisite for advancement but as necessary to enjoy every aspect of life. Centre succeeds in sharing this lesson by emphasizing experiential learning—we students are taught by doing.”

He also says that the “warmth proffered by my professors meant I grew with a genuine compassion for other people. I enjoy learning not only to satisfy my own inquisitive nature but also to help and serve other people. Centre’s professors taught me that a liberal arts education is not self-centered but has the potential to make the world better for everyone.”

With this goal in mind, Sweis will begin a master’s program in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, where he also plans to earn his Ph.D.