LAWRENCE — Four seniors at the University of Kansas have been named the recipients of university awards recognizing academic success, leadership and involvement.
Sara Anees, a Wichita senior majoring in journalism, and Micah Melia, a Prairie Village senior majoring in anthropology, are the winners of the Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award, which is presented to a graduating senior who has unselfishly contributed to the university through active campus involvement.
Darby Evans, a Leawood senior majoring in English and journalism, and Michael Garrett, a Lenexa senior majoring in Spanish and journalism, are the winners of the Agnes Wright Strickland Award, given annually to a graduating senior in recognition of a good academic record, demonstrated leadership in matters of university concern, respect among fellow students, and indications of future dedication to services at the university.
The Dillard Award was created in 1993 by family and friends to remember and honor Alexis F. Dillard.
“The most rewarding experience that I have had at KU is something I experience every day – it's my opportunity to be a Jayhawk,” Anees said. “I am so grateful for the support that I have from my family and communities at this school who have helped me succeed. As a student with rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions, I am prone to experiencing varying levels of discomfort and ability on a daily basis. There were times in the past four years that complications and unknowns with my health almost prevented me from returning to school. Despite that, I refused to allow pain, however severe, from interfering with my goals. My involvement and contributions at KU are a direct result of my appreciation for the opportunities I have been given. I strive to make the most of each day, no matter what. With this recognition of support, I feel that it is very important for me to give to others when I am able.”
Melia said of her award, “I’ve seen the most personal growth in myself from the four years I spent at the Center for Community Outreach. I started as a JayLEAD intern, became development director, then Mentors in the Lives of Kids coordinator, and this past year served as executive director. I’ve learned so much about KU and Lawrence through this work. Volunteering through the CCO got me connected both to more KU students, staff and faculty, but also to Lawrence community members and nonprofit agencies. It’s an honor to receive the university award that recognizes student involvement after the experiences I had with the CCO. It was always my goal to be a contributing member of the organization in a way that maintained the mission to meaningfully serve Lawrence and KU.”
The Strickland Award was established in 1953 in memory of Agnes Wright Strickland, member of the class of 1887. The award consists of a lifetime membership in the KU Alumni Association.
“It is impossible to say whether one KU experience is more rewarding than another simply because all of them have all been rewarding in their own way,” Evans said. “KU has provided me with such an incredible array of opportunities, so I've learned something unique from each. It's difficult to compare studying abroad for a semester in Barcelona to dancing onstage at Rock Chalk Revue to clocking daily hours at the SILC office, but each and every experience changed my life in some way.”
Garrett also reflected on his most rewarding experience at KU and how it related to his journey to receiving this award.
“Whenever anyone asks me this question, I always go back to when I was the executive director of The Big Event at KU 2014. There was a moment right before we started our kickoff ceremony where I stood on the stage we had set up at the Rec Center parking lot and looked out at all of the volunteers. We had approximately 3,000 KU students, faculty and staff show up at 10 a.m. on a Saturday to give their time helping Lawrence residents. It was an inspiring and humbling moment for me. Our team had been working relentlessly for an entire year for this event, and to see it all come to fruition, with all 3,000 volunteers there, was truly awe-inspiring.”