The League of Women Voters' Worcester chapter presented Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) sophomore Juliana Wakeman with its Rising Star Service Award at an April 28 ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse. Presented annually to college sophomores who have made outstanding contributions in civic service, the award recognizes "the valuable and far-reaching contributions made by student volunteers that help change Worcester County communities for the better."
A Saratoga Springs, N.Y., native, Wakeman, one of two local students to receive the award, is an aerospace engineering major and management minors at WPI. Her civic contributions include establishing Colleges Against Cancer at WPI, which raised more than $83,000 this year during American Cancer Society's 4th annual Relay for Life fund-raiser at WPI.
"Juliana exemplifies the model WPI student, with her commitment to her academics as well as to her community," said WPI President Dennis Berkey. "I look forward to observing her next accomplishments while at WPI, and in her future career."
Wakeman, 20, first became involved with the Relay for Life as a high school sophomore. "Since then," she explained, "I’ve been doing my best to inspire others as I have been inspired to join the fight against cancer. I am honored to receive the Rising Star Service Award and hope that this recognition will serve as another way for me to reach more people and inspire them to join the fight."
Wakeman credits WPI's projects program with inspiring her passion for community service. Next academic year, she plans to spend seven weeks in a village outside Cape Town, South Africa. There, she will conduct a project aimed to improve the quality of life for village residents. "I think WPI's projects program encourages us to engage with communities, whether in a foreign country or right here in Worcester," Wakeman said. "We learn to work with members of the host community to find solutions that are not only most feasible and efficient, but that also accommodate the social and cultural needs of the community we are serving. That is essential to the success of any project."
The awards ceremony took place in state Sen. Harriette L. Chandler's Beacon Hill office. Chandler, who represents part of Worcester in the State Senate, is a longtime member of the League of Women Voters. She and Worcester League President Melanie Demarais presented the awards. Wakeman received a plaque, a Senate Citation signed by Chandler and Senate President Therese Murray, a $100 savings bond, a tour of the Statehouse, a photograph in the State Senate Chamber, a complimentary membership in the League of Women Voters, and a guest appearance on the cable show, "Beacon Hill Chat," hosted by Senator Chandler.
The Massachusetts League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan grassroots organization committed to influencing public policy through education and advocacy. For 90 years the League has been a leader in working to ensure that citizens have a free role in making democracy work.