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Two St. Bonaventure University students who excelled in and out of the classroom and who embrace Franciscan values were recognized as the Ideal Bonaventure Students for the graduating class of 2014.
Paul C. Leonardo, the Ideal Bonaventure Man, and Courtney M. Robinson, the Ideal Bonaventure Woman, were recognized on Saturday, May 10, during the university’s Honors Ceremony, and again Sunday during its 154th Commencement Exercises.
The Ideal Bonaventure Students exemplify the spirit of St. Bonaventure and the ideals of St. Francis through community service and academic excellence. They are selected by a committee that considers nominations from the campus community.
Leonardo, of New York City, earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and Spanish on Sunday. He also earned a minor in law and society, and completed a concentration in international relations. He is the son of Paula Cuebas.
Robinson, an education major from Binghamton, N.Y., graduated with certifications in elementary education, early childhood education and special education, and a minor in Spanish. She is a daughter of Carla and Marc Robinson.
The honorable mentions were David A. Paccapaniccia, an accounting major from Indiana, Pa., and Taylor E. Phillips, of Oswego, N.Y., a psychology major who minored in French and math.
Leonardo came to St. Bonaventure through the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), which provides scholarships and academic support to financially and academically disadvantaged students. The program is funded through the New York State Department of Education and St. Bonaventure University.
Mark Phillips, an academic skills specialist with HEOP, describes Leonardo as “a Franciscan, leader, and intellectual who has overcome enormous obstacles.”
A victim of poverty, “Paul’s intellectual curiosity and basic goodness have been, in a sense, his guardian angels,” helping him escape gang life in New York and a path that was likely to lead him to prison or an early death, said Phillips.
And while Leonardo leaves St. Bonaventure with two degrees, a minor and a concentration, he has given more than he has received, said Phillips.
“Paul regularly helps other students who are facing problems,” he said. “Many students look up to him and regularly seek his advice and tutoring.”
Fluent in Spanish and a member of Sigma Delta Pi, the national collegiate Hispanic honor society, Leonardo started an organization that permits him and others to tutor Colombian students online in English. During the summer of 2013, he served as a student mentor for students from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela who attended the Western Hemisphere Study of the United States Institutes for Student Leaders program, held at St. Bonaventure.
He also participated in Model United Nations and the Presidential Inauguration Academic Seminar at The Washington Center in Washington, D.C.
Leonardo has served as a mentor for international students, a peer leader and advocate for HEOP, and served as president of St. Bonaventure’s Latino American Student Organization. He has been a volunteer with The Warming House, the university’s student-run soup kitchen; BonaResponds, the university disaster-relief organization; and the SPCA. He has also participated in spiritual retreats at Mt. Irenaeus, the Franciscan sanctuary near campus.
He hosted a hip-hop show on campus radio station WSBU, participated in poetry slams and was a member of the club rugby team.
“This young man has come so far and I am certain he will continue to grow intellectually and will make quiet but profound cultural and Franciscan contributions to the world,” said Phillips.
Leonardo plans to pursue a graduate degree in global affairs at Rutgers University.
In nominating Robinson as an Ideal Bonaventure Student, Dr. Nancy Casey, associate professor of education, called her “the model student” and “an outstanding individual.” Intelligent, confident, dependable and thirsty for knowledge, Robinson has been a role model and a leader for her class, said Casey.
The recipient of a Presidential Scholarship, Robinson has been a dean’s list student every semester and was inducted into two educational honor societies: Phi Eta Sigma, an honor society for first-year college and university students; and Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education.
Craig Sinesiou, a lecturer in the School of Education, said Robinson “approaches every assignment with a sense of challenge, wanting to learn from the assignments, not just do them.”
Robinson was busily engaged outside the classroom as well. She served as a peer mentor for the First-Year Experience Program and as a volunteer with BonaResponds and the Bona Buddies youth-mentoring program. She also served as a volunteer for AmeriCorps.
Deeply spiritual, she has been a community leader for Mt. Irenaeus and helped coordinate activities for fellow students who venture there. She has also volunteered at The Warming House, using her leadership skills to help supervise and direct other volunteers, and was an active member of the campus SEARCH Retreat Team.
What makes Robinson’s record of achievement as a leader, role model, volunteer and top student even more extraordinary is that she also worked a significant number of hours each week to finance her education. A member of the catering staff for Aramark, the university’s dining services provider, Robinson was known as a conscientious and hard worker, and was entrusted with leadership positions, such as the training of new staff members.
“She is a self-assured young lady who takes satisfaction in being knowledgeable and skilled in the craft of teaching, who takes on and resolves the challenges given to her, and who can take control of a situation and make sound decisions,” said Casey. “She is bringing her love of learning to her career, and she is going to be an exceptional teacher.”
Robinson will return to St. Bonaventure in the fall to pursue her master’s degree in literacy and will serve as a graduate assistant in the School of Education.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. We are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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