(Photo courtesy of Faysal Houtait)

(Photo courtesy of Faysal Houtait)
BY KYLE SCHAFER, Staff Writer

The 2012 Student Leadership Awards were held last Wednesday to honor student leaders on campus and all their hard work.

This year was the 32nd incarnation of the annual event to honor those students, organizations, and events that have impacted student life on campus over the past school year.

Vice Chancellor Stanley Henderson opened the ceremony with a convocation speech, praising the soon-to-be award recipients, and recapping the successful year in campus life. The year’s highlights included the new rock for painting, the changeover from blue books to more environmentally friendly “green books,” and the various big name speakers that visited campus, among other successes.

(Photo courtesy of Faysal Houtait)

Amy Karaban, the event organizer, then took the stage and handed out several dozen leadership certificates for Emerging Leaders, Leadership Synergy, Leadership Legacy, and Civic Engagement.

Next came the 2012 class of Difference Makers. As had been the tradition, 50 winners were chosen from 100 nominees, and the winners can now be seen on the front page of the University of Michigan-Dearborn website. And not surprisingly, many of the students won some major awards later on in the evening.

The “Difference Makers” program started in 2010, to honor the 50th anniversary of the school, and, since then, 150 Difference Makers have been named out of more than 300 nominees.

It finally got down to the major awards. For his work with Amnesty International, Latif Hamzah won the individual award for Outstanding Service to Community.

(Photo courtesy of Faysal Houtait)
Meanwhile, Golden Key won the group award for Outstanding Service to Community. Golden Key had all but disappeared from campus for the past two school years, but they were back and contributed a lot to the community through their various charitable acts. It was a real comeback story.

Outstanding Organization Advisor was given to a unique candidate. Not only did winner, Jason Davis, advise two organizations, both the Association for Diversity and Unity and the Student Philanthropy Council nominated him. “It was a great honor to receive this award,” said Davis, adding, “I have a great appreciation for the phenomenal student leaders on our campus.” Attributing to his win was his “open door policy.”

Iffa Kazi and Anthony Wagner won the individual award for Commitment to Inclusion for their work with Kazi’s organization, Association for Diversity and Unity, and Mr. Wagner’s organization of “The Hijabi Monologues.”

(Photo courtesy of Faysal Houtait)
“[This] was probably the best gift I have received as a student,” said Kazi, whose organization also won the group award for Commitment to Inclusion. She went on to say, “I can surely say that being involved in student life has changed me and inspired me, and given me the skills and resources to succeed.”

For the first time in a long time, Student Government won the award for Outstanding University Organization, while the Political Science Association won Outstanding Student Organization.

A big part of the winning résumé was the Destination Detroit speaker series, held in February that brought State Representatives Harvey Santana and Shanelle Jackson, as well as two others from the Metro Detroit area to campus to speak with students.

PSA president Jessica Reed, put a lot into the event, as well as the organization. She was also the president of Golden Key and a senator in Student Government. That is why she was named one of four Distinguished Student Leaders. “My work with these organizations is a small part of our greater campus life but every organization contributes to make this campus what it is,” said Reed.

Benjamin Jenkins, the president of the Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA), also won the award for his work on the cause of inclusion and diversity through his organization, and helped to put together LGBT History Month on campus. “It was countless hours of work,” said Professor Pamela Pennock, the professor who nominated Jenkins for the award.

Kristoffer Bjornbak and David Knezek rounded out the award’s winners. Sgt. Knezek served two tours of duty in the Iraq War as a member of a Scout Sniper Platoon, came back to Michigan-Dearborn, helped found the PSA, was elected Student Government president, and is running for state representative. He could not be reached for comment, but clearly deserves this award.

Reflecting on the event, Karaban said, “This is a great opportunity to celebrate at the end of the year,” she said, adding, “Hopefully students see someone next year they would like to nominate.”