Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

Eight Westfield State University students receive the 2019 President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2019
CONTACT: Troy Watkins,, 413.572.5523

Westfield— On Friday, Dec. 7, Westfield State University recognized eight exemplary students for their leadership and service to the university and the surrounding community. The President’s Awards for Excellence in Leadership were presented at a dinner held in Scanlon Banquet Hall on Westfield State University’s campus.

“These service-focused men and women have distinguished themselves from their peers by combining outstanding academic achievement with demonstrated leadership skills, both on and beyond campus,” said Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D.

The President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership was created in 2007. To be eligible for this award, students must have a grade point average of 3.3 or higher and exhibit an impressive range of both university and community service activities. Award applicants are required to complete an application detailing their leadership experience, their volunteer work, and an essay detailing a challenge they overcame while in their leadership role.

The eight awardees, selected by a multi-disciplinary committee, include four seniors and four juniors with a collective average GPA of 3.9. The 2019 recipients are:

Skyler Acconcio ’21, music education major, Wilbraham, Mass.
is dedicated student leader for a variety of programs both on and off campus, including as a student representative for the music department’s Curriculum Committee, a student chair for the Choral Retreat Committee, and a historian of the Westfield Collegiate American Choral Directors’ Association, for which she previously served as vice president.

Saltanat Aldabayeva ’21, chemistry major, West Springfield, Mass.
Among Aldabayeva’s many leadership roles, she is a general and organic chemistry tutor, a presidential student ambassador, a College of Mathematics and Sciences representative, a Gamma Sigma Epsilon member, a Commonwealth Honors Program member, a Biology department work study student, and a First Responders member. She previously served as a work-study student for the microbiology department and has been a teaching fellow for DNA Science at Hotchkiss Summer Portals, where she assisted a professor and was a residential assistant for dormitory buildings.

Hannah Griswold ’21, nursing major, Westhampton, Mass.
Involved in a variety of programs and volunteer work, Griswold is an anatomy and physiology tutor, a nursing club member and peer mentor, a member of the University’s Honors Program, a member and former group coordinator for the National Society of Leadership and Success, a former Westfield State women’s rugby club member, and a member of the American Holistic Nursing Association. She has volunteered for many causes, including Operation Stand Down, the Flu Shot Clinic, the University’s Relay for Life, Warming Hearts Blanket Drive, Baystate Medical Center’s winter wonderland, open house for prospective nursing students, and research studies for nursing and health communication.

Thomas Howard ’20, history and political science major, Agawam, Mass.
A devoted student leader, Howard, spent his most recent summer as a Westfield State Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity research fellow through the Student Summer Research Fellows program. He’s been a WSKB-FM radio DJ, and is a member of multiple honor societies, including Pi Sigma Alpha, Phi Alpha Theta, Phi Kappa Phi, and Westfield State’s Honors Program. He’s the Student Government Association vice president of student life, a student honors advisory council president for School Health Advisory Councils, an orientation leader and student coordinator, and an Honors Program student leader and intern.

Emilie Jean-Jacques ’20, criminal justice and political science major, Shirley, Mass.
is the president of the Multicultural Student Association, a presidential student ambassador, and an ambassador for Urban Education. She was previously a community service leader, a recruitment mentor for the Urban Education Program, and the secretary of Lammers Hall Council. She has volunteered at admissions open house sessions, assisted with Westfield State’s Relay for Life, and served as a volunteer at the Boston Marathon.

Thalita Neves ’21, criminal justice and communication major, Shrewsbury, Mass.
is the student representative on Westfield State University’s Board of Trustees and has been the vice president of finance for the Student Government Association (SGA). She has been the president of Lambda Sigma National Honors Society, an Honors Program mentor, and a member of the search committee established for the vice president for Student Affairs. She has volunteered at numerous campus events and for several organizations, including Arbors Assisted Living, Project PACK, and the City of Westfield’s Our House, and assisted communities in Guatemala with water filtration systems and hygiene education.

Elli-Ann Oskar ’20, economics major, Agawam, Mass.
is the president of the Jewish Student Organization. She has been the walk leader in the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition Breast Cancer Walk and a volunteer for the Common Goods food pantry. She has taught sixth grade students at a local Hebrew school and also tutors students at Westfield State’s Banacos Academic Center.

Bryan Pimentel ’20, criminal justice and political science major, Framingham, Mass.
is a student representative for the Northeast Regional Honors Council and an Honors Living Learning Community head resident assistant. He previously served as president of the Class of 2020 and as a head new student orientation leader. He has volunteered for Lambda Sigma Honor Society events, the American Red Cross blood donations, and the Framingham Food Pantry. He completed an internship with the City of Westfield Police Department and has been involved with the Multicultural Student Association, Residential Engagement, the Campus Activity Board, Student Government Association, and Class Council.

PHOTO CAPTION: 2019 Westfield State University President's Award for Excellence in Leadership recipients Elli-Ann Oskar ’20, Thomas Howard ’20, Saltanat Aldabeyeva ’21, Emilie Jean-Jacques ’20, Bryan Pimentel ’20, Thalita Neves ’21, Hannah Griswold ’21, and Skyler Acconcio ’21.

Founded in 1839 by Horace Mann, Westfield State University is an education leader committed to providing every generation of students with a learning experience built on its founding principle as the first public co-educational college in America to offer an education without barrier to race, gender or economic status. This spirit of innovative thinking and social responsibility is forged in a curriculum of liberal arts and professional studies that creates a vital community of engaged learners who become confident, capable individuals prepared for leadership and service to society. For more information about Westfield State University, visit,, or


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