From reviving student communities to co-inventing solar water systems, NJIT students aim to get out into the world and make life better for people. Some 11 students who shined the most when it comes to helping others recently were feted at the annual Highlander Student Achievement Awards.
“People are starting to live up to these awards, by helping their student community and acting completely selfless,” says Joseph Rios. Rios, who works for the dean of students, is the associate director for leadership, diversity and first-year programs. He is a judge of the programs which honored the following individuals.
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Paul Rodriguez, of Harrison, received the Outstanding Student Leader Award, for his work with the NJIT chapter of Engineers Without Borders. In Milot, Haiti, a small northern village, Rodriguez helped install some 25 bio-sand filters in 21 homes, two churches and two schools. He was a co-inventor of the filtration system. He also helped set up a filter production center and taught a dozen Haitian students how to build and install more units. Some 30,000 people live in Milot and ideally there eventually will be 3,500 units, which the group hopes the people will be able to build for themselves. Rodriguez this year has also raised funds for a campus-wide Haitian relief effort. During the recent earthquake, he and others from NJIT talked daily with Haitian nuns and hospital representatives helping to assess building structures.
Jaskirat Sodhi, of Edison, received the graduate Presidential Leadership Award. As president of the Graduate Student Association, Jaskirat reinvigorated the club and made it better known, more organized, and more productive by introducing new programs like feedback sessions for teaching and research assistants, trips to Las Vegas and Lake George, and movie-making contests.
Harish Damodoran, of Harrison, who is the vice president of the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society, was feted for his community service work. He organized yoga and stress relief workshops for students and faculty and community service events such as a “Smile-O-Meter” campaign in the PATH train stations.
Gaurav Bagwe, of Harrison, received an Outstanding Leader Award. As president of the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society, he held regular bone marrow donor drives in conjunction with the club and created and maintained its website. He also encouraged students to participate in student life.
Katrina Hornstein, of Duluth, MN received the undergraduate Presidential Leadership Award for her work as editor-in-chief of the yearbook, co-captain of the volleyball team, and for being named the top female mechanical engineering student.
This is the second time Ashish Borgaonkar, of Harrison, has won the Outstanding Graduate Class Award. He belongs to several student and science organizations and has published work on chemical environmental matters and the potentials and problems thereof.
Arieta Giokas, of Parsippany, made her mark on campus by winning the Outstanding Freshman Class Award for her work as the freshman class president for the NJIT Student Senate and her work in two sororities and the Hellenic Culture Association.
Vanessa Casteblanco, of South Plainfield, won the Outstanding Sophomore Class Award. She is involved in campus and professional groups. She is known for coordinating weeklong student events (like Freshman Weekend and Week of Winter) and acts as a youth soccer coach and a peer counselor in her hometown.
The winner of the Outstanding Senior Class Award, Salman Naqvi, of Kearny, has several leadership positions in extracurricular activities in between his work tutoring elementary school children as well as college-level physics and calculus, and his scientific research assistant internships.
As the winner of the Outstanding Junior Class Award, Vincent Scarfo of Flanders, is very active in Greek life.
Gricel Robles, of Bloomfield, received an Outstanding Student Staff Award. He has worked tirelessly at the Campus Center as the assistant director of reservations and conference services and helps the main director with day-to-day operations.
Sameer Govil, of Marlboro, won an Outstanding Student Staff Award for his work at the NJIT Division of Career Development Services since his freshman year, where he was a project manager of career fairs and worked on the logistics and marketing details of the event.