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The 2008 Skookum Award Winners: a Clear Example of Students Who Go the Extra Mile

Posted September 15, 2008

skookum08group.gifShannon Rajala recalls with excitement her work with inner city youth in Chicago for Alternative Spring Break last year. “It was an after-school program at an agency called Alternatives, Inc., and one of our accomplishments was transforming an office into a wardrobe closet,” she says. “The agency collected donated clothes, and now the high school students can borrow professional outfits for job interviews.”

Because of her achievement in academics (including a 3.75 grade-point-average) and participation in community service and co-curricular programs, Rajala was one of 15 Western New England College students (pictured) to be presented with the Alumni Association’s 2008 Skookum Award. The word Skookum in the Chinook language means excellence. The awards were presented during a ceremony dinner on September 19 at Rivers Memorial Hall during Homecoming Weekend. See portraits and read biographies of all the award winners. Also, view photos from the award ceremony.

President Anthony S. Caprio spoke at the ceremony, as did Alumni Association President Mat Nelson ’93. Award presenters were past Skookum Award recipients Chris Wystepek ’02, assistant director of admissions at the College, and Jessica Vogel ’07.

Olalekan Adeoyin was presented with the Grand Skookum Award, the highest honor of the awards. Better known as Lincoln, Adeoyin is an electrical Engineering major with a 3.42 GPA. The native of Brockton, MA has been a member of the Review of Art and Literature since 2005, and serves as the Editor-in-Chief. He serves on the Engineering Student Council, The Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers and is a member of United and Mutually Equal (U&ME). He is a published poet with the International Society of Poetry and the Western New England College Review magazine. Lincoln applied for and received approval to establish a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers the College in 2007 and he served until May 2008 as the club’s Pioneer Chapter president. He has been a committed member of the Campus Chorus since his freshman year.

Adeoyin has been serving as a peer advisor since 2006, and was chosen to serve on the Steering Committee of the Peer Advising program in December of 2007. A member of U&ME since 2005, he became chairperson of the 2007 World Festival Committee. Since fall 2007, he has been chosen as one of the two student representatives on the College’s Strategic Planning Committee. When not at the College, Adeoyin volunteers at his church as the editor of the church magazine Overcomers Quarterly, he also volunteers as a Sunday school teacher and as a youth coordinator, organizing activities that help to spiritually enrich young teenagers, encouraging them to believe in themselves and maximize their potential.

A member of Alpha Lambda Delta, Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board honor societies, Adeoyin is also a 2006 USAA National Collegiate Minority Leadership Award Winner, a 2007 Western New England College Student Life Award Winner, a 2007 Western New England College Alpha Lambda Delta Jo Anne Trow Scholarship Nominee, and was named the pioneer Western New England College Student of the Month in January 2008.

Rajala is one of four 2008 Skookum Award recipients to participate in the Alternative Spring Break Program. Amanda Poyant traveled to Atlanta last year to assist resettled refugees from warring and conflict-affected areas of Burma and Burundi. Two years ago Michael Murray went to Baltimore, where he lived in a halfway house and volunteered in a soup kitchen, as well as in a home for the elderly and in an institution for the mentally ill. Michael Ormsby, a Royal Skookum—the second highest honor of the Skookum Awards—has been selected as a co-leader for the Alternative Spring Break next semester to assist in rebuilding efforts in hurricane-torn New Orleans.

An English major who is minoring in philosophy, Rajala also lead a team of volunteers for Alternative Spring Break next March at a site to be determined. Volunteering is certainly nothing new to her, as she has also tutored children at the Vietnamese Civic Association in Springfield and participated in the Crop Walk for Hunger. In high school, the native of Windsor Locks, CT volunteered at her town’s public library and the Bradley Elementary School. Like her fellow award winners, Rajala is involved in a plethora of student organizations, as well as programs and societies for the College’s top students, including the Honors Program, the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Mortar Board Honor Society, and is on the Dean’s List and the President’s List. She chose to attend Western New England College “because of the small class sizes, which give students the opportunity to get to know their professors.” As for her future, “I plan to apply to law schools and hope to one day work in public interest and environmental law,” she says.

The Skookum Award was established in 1989 by the Alumni Association. This year’s 15 award recipients come from diverse backgrounds and were nominated by faculty, staff, and coaches. The 10 others are: Christopher Talbot, Kellie Stanchak, Sarah Garner, Nicole Hagerty, Michael Melucci, Brian Gaouette, Kyle McGuire, Brian Michaud, Peter DiNardo, and Lila West, who received a Royal Skookum Award.


Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University serves 3,955 students, including 2,575 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and School of Law.


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