Cynthia J. Avila, a fourth-year in the College, was one of 57 Illinois college students chosen for this year’s Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award. Avila was invited to speak and accept the award on behalf of all of the recipients at last Saturday’s Student Laureate Convocation.
University faculty from each of Illinois’ four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities nominate candidates. From that pool of nominees, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois selects a winning senior from each school.
According to the website, Laureates are chosen for excellence in academic and extracurricular activities. Avila is majoring in History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science (HIPS). She works at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics and is an RA for Vincent House in Burton-Judson Courts.
This year, the Laureates gathered in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois to be recognized for this honor. Those in attendance at the ceremony included the governor of Illinois, the chancellor and trustees of the Academy, and multiple university and college presidents.
Avila’s speech referenced President Lincoln’s frequent metaphors about trees, which she saw as a call to find inspiration and motivation in everyday life.
“I pointed out that these quotes in which the trees were involved in were all inspirational quotes, and so I think our President is far more clever than that. I think he used trees because you see them every day, and I think something he was indicating was that you need to find inspiration everyday, whether that’s in a person or doing a good thing,” Avila said about the message of her speech.
The presentation of the 2015 Student Laureates followed her speech, and Governor Bruce Rauner closed the ceremony with ending remarks. Each Laureate received a Student Laureate Medallion, a $1,000 educational grant, and a certificate of achievement.
Reflecting on the ceremony, Avila said, “So many people have been involved in shaping who I am today and helping me figure out what it means to lead by example, stay positive, and how important it is to be open-minded. I'm eternally thankful for the opportunities I've been given, and I hope to help others in the same way these mentors have helped me."