Misericordia University recognized the academic accomplishments of the co-valedictorians for the spring and winter 2020 graduating classes during a virtual celebration held on December 20, 2020.
Four Valedictorians were celebrated including: Shelbi Jones, Fleetwood, PA; Jenna Reed, Fleetwood, PA; Emilee Mae Zawatski, Dallas, PA; and Alec Aversa, Thornhurst, PA. Jones, Reed, and Zawatski all received their B.S. in Health Science in May 2020 and anticipate earning their M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology in May 2021. Aversa received his B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics in December 2020.
Jones, who aspires to work as a speech pathologist within a medical facility, extends the following advice to current students: “Take everything one step at a time and make the most out of it, making sure it is a fun experience.” In addition, Jones has been involved with sports throughout all her undergraduate years, running cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring. Shelbi also served as an RA for Gildea Hall and the Townhouses in her junior and senior years.
Reed, a member of the Honors program, served as the National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) local chapter president during her sophomore year and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) student state officer for Pa. As a research assistant for Dr. Kathleen Scaler Scott, professor of speech-language pathology, Reed presented research at two state conferences in Pittsburgh and Lancaster along with two national conferences in Boston and Orlando.
“When you find what you are most passionate about, do your best to live in the moment and get involved,” said Reed, who hopes to continue working with young adults and elementary-age kids with special needs and more severe developmental disabilities.
For her capstone project, Reed collaborated with Dr. Glenn Willis, assistant professor of religious studies, and Dr. David Rehm, Vice President Academic Affairs, to develop a prison exchange program for Misericordia students and inmates at the Dallas State Correctional Institution.
Zawatski’s most memorable and impactful experiences at Misericordia involved studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, in 2018 and 2019, along with numerous service opportunities on campus. From freshman to senior year, she was a member of the Student Environmental Sustainability Committee and worked at Mercy Center, a skilled nursing facility on Misericordia’s campus. As a member of the National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), she volunteered at events, such as Night to Shine and the National Stuttering Association 5K.
When asked about her advice to current students, Zawatski recommended learning as much as possible in each class: “Don’t get too hung up on grades and instead focus on gaining as much knowledge as possible. Directing your focus to learning will make school more enjoyable.” Zawatski is considering pursuing her Ph.D. and ultimately working in academia.
In his time at the Misericordia, Aversa was a SOAR leader (Student Outdoor Adventure and Recreation), a STAF member (Students Today, Alumni Forever), an RHA member (Residence Housing Association), and the Secretary of the Math and Computer Science Club. In addition, Aversa was an RA for a year-and-a-half and was the Theater Assistant, helping to run the technical aspects of Lemmond Theater.
Aversa urged students to get as involved as their schedule allows when he conveyed that “while this grants you a lot of fun experiences, getting involved allows you to meet some of the most influential people in your life.” Alec was recently accepted into the Master of Computer Engineering Program at Drexel University. Following the conferral of his master’s degree, he hopes to either pursue a doctorate in computer science or transition into a job in professional programming or systems management.