Four Southern students who have displayed outstanding scholarship and a commitment to community service during their collegiate career have been selected as recipients of this year’s Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award.
Each year, 12 seniors are chosen by the four Connecticut State Universities – four each from Southern and Central, and two each from Eastern and Western. It is considered among the university’s most prestigious student awards. Criteria include a 3.7 GPA or better and having demonstrated significant participation in university and/or community life.
Alexis Zhitomi, a communication disorders major, has a GPA of 3.97. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in speech-language pathology at Southern this fall.
Zhitomi is president of the Student Government Association and a member of the Honors College. She has been the recipient of several scholarships. She has volunteered with the Friends of Rudolph, SCSU Day of Service, Adopt-a-Family, The Big Event, and was a Yale-New Haven Neuro-Speech Volunteer. She also has been an orientation coordinator for the Office of New Student and Sophomore Programs.
During her lifetime, she has traveled to all 50 states, and five continents. Zhitomi presented her undergraduate thesis last fall at a national American Speech-Language Hearing Association convention in Orlando, Fla.
“She has proven to be a passionate, diligent, and self-motivated student and is most deserving of this type of recognition,” said Heather Warner, associate professor of communication disorders. “…Given the depth of her classroom discussions, it was easy to see her passion for people, desire to help, and thirst for knowledge.”
Amber Archambault, a social work major, has a 3.96 GPA. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Southern this fall in the advanced standing program.
She is an intern at the East Hartford High School Student Assistance Center, where she evaluates and counsels students’ needs and concerns. On campus, she was a resident advisor for nearly two and a half years, and was named Resident Advisor of the Year in 2019.
Archambault also served as an orientation ambassador, and earned several awards and grants, including a Connecticut State University grant in 2019. She had volunteered at the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, where she worked with children with physical disabilities.
“Ms. Archambault is a natural leader who is driven by passion to make a positive impact in the community for those who may otherwise be unable to advocate for themselves,” said Kyle O’Brien, assistant professor of social work. “(She) will represent SCSU well as an alum as she enters the social work profession and begins to leave a lasting footprint in the communities she works within.”
Brooke Mercaldi, an environmental systems and sustainability studies major, has a 3.93 GPA. She plans to attend the Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University this fall.
Mercaldi is a member of the Honors College. She is a Werth Center for Coastal Marine Studies Fellow, and served as research coordinator for the center. She is a recipient of several scholarships and is executive vice president of the Student Government Association. She is a member of the Board of Regents for Higher Education Student Advisory Committee, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Taskforce, and the SCSU Global Education Advisory Council.
She has volunteered with the Friends of Rudolph and Adopt-a-Family programs. Mercaldi served as an intern with the Connecticut General Assembly and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“Brooke’s work was not only outstanding, but she exhibited an intellectual curiosity and a critical thinking ability that impressed me deeply…After 20 years of teaching, I can think of no student more appropriate for the Henry Barnard Award than Brooke,” said James Tait, professor of the environment, geography and marine sciences.
Melissa Palma Cuapio, a chemistry major, has a GPA of 3.8. She is considering applying to medical school in the future.
Palma is a chemistry tutor and was selected as the American Chemical Society’s Outstanding Senior Organic Chemistry Student in 2019. She was a member of the Math Club, Botany Club, Club Taekwondo and Service Commission Club.
She conducted research in the field of chemistry and presented her findings at the SCSU Research Symposium. Palma Cuapio served as a youth leader in the Junta Youth in Action Program.
“She is very gifted and works very hard…I find Melissa to be very excited about science and research. Melissa has a very strong desire to enter the medical field when she graduates from Southern, and I believe that she has taken the right steps to prepare herself for a career in medicine,” said Adiel Coca, chairman of the Chemistry Department.