Six students receive Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award

Award recognizes distinguished service, character and leadership

From left to right: Asha Gordon, Emilio Frometa, Hana Chaudhury, Alex Palmeri, Max Garcia and Adam Grotsky.
Credit: 
Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky

On Feb. 5, six students received the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award — the highest tribute paid to a student for their valuable and distinguished leadership at the University.

Each year, a selection committee made up of students from a variety of faculties and backgrounds are tasked with reviewing nomination packages. Alumni, faculty and students can nominate a Queen’s student they feel has demonstrated exceptional service through non-athletic, extracurricular activities.

Asha Gordon, ArtSci ’18

Since the very beginning of her time at Queen’s, Gordon has been involved with the Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS), starting as a first-year intern. She then worked as an administrator, vice-president and now holds the position of QBAS president.

In addition, Gordon serves on the Board of Directors for the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre and has had extensive involvement with the Queen’s alumni office. Notably, she worked to establish the Queen’s Black Alumni Chapter (QBAC), which was officially formed in June 2017.

According to Gordon, co-founding QBAC was her favourite experience from undergrad.

“[At the alumni office] I got to see how meaningful it is for alumni to come back not only to relive the memories of their adolescence but also to make new memories and connections,” Gordon said. “But I also noticed … there was definitely a gap there between alumni who wanted to come back and alumni who didn’t have the best experience because of the homogeneous nature of Queen’s.”

When she first heard she’d won the award, she was grateful for the support from her peers who nominated her.

“When I heard that I had got the award, I just thought about the people who had nominated me and the fact that they saw the award description — they saw character, service, leadership — and thought of me,” she said. “It was so gratifying thinking of those relationships.”

In the future, Gordon hopes students who have attended QBAC and QBAS events will continue to have confidence in their ability to affect change on campus.

Emilio Frometa, ArtSci ’17/MA ’18

During both his undergraduate and graduate studies, Frometa founded the Kingston Autism Mentorship Program, which pairs student athletes with children in the community with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The program has worked to make sporting events — like Queen’s basketball games — more accessible to those with ASD by creating sensory-safe zones for viewing. Frometa has also visited schools in the community to speak to students about the importance of literacy and education in overcoming adversity.

Now that he’s preparing to leave campus, he has been working on passing the program off to new leadership.

“I think we’ve become the premier program in the city for families and I don’t want that to stop,” Frometa said. “Moving forward, my goal is to have the program at every university in Ontario to start.”

With plans to watch the program grow, Frometa now reflects on all the relationships he’s fostered with his volunteers and the families involved in the program, as well as with his peers at Queen’s.

“I think the biggest honour about the award is it’s a reflection of the people I keep around me,” he said. “It’s warming that there’s good people around me and in the Queen’s community, and this award is … a testament to that.”

Hana Chaudhury, Comm ’18

Over the past four years, Chaudhury has been involved with a variety of student bodies, including Queen’s International Affairs Association (QIAA), Queen’s Female Leadership in Politics conference and the AMS. Last year, she sat on the Principal’s Implementation Committee for Racism, Diversity and Inclusion (PICRDI) and worked to rewrite QIAA’s sexual harassment policies, introducing bystander intervention training.

Currently, Chaudhury works as a marketing and research manager for the AMS. However, it’s her work on PICRDI that she specifically hopes to see carried on.

“I hope [to see] the work I did in PICRDI … actually enacted and change the lives of students in the next couple of years,” Chaudhury said. “Hopefully it outlines specific strategies that push the administration to complete [recommendations] and gives enough power to student leaders on campus to be able to advocate with clear plans and implementation strategies.”

Upon receiving the award, Chaudhury said she was honoured mainly for being recognized by her peers.

“I’m just really humbled and honoured that my peers felt that I was deserving of the award and to nominate me,” she said. “The reward has been in all the people who have reached out to me afterwards.”

While Chaudhury hopes student leaders will continue advocacy efforts in the future, she also hopes to see the University take tangible action towards addressing pressing issues facing Queen’s.

“I’d really like to see the University take real action on … anti-racism, sexual violence and a host of other issues that students have worked tirelessly to advocate for,” Chaudhury said. “I would like to see equal response and responsibility taken by the administration in years forward to make this an inclusive space for everybody.”

Adam Grotsky, Law ’19

In his seven years at Queen’s, Grotsky has held several student government positions, including being the ASUS Academic Affairs Commissioner and the ASUS President in 2014-15. Now in law school, Grotsky serves as President of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students. 

Upon hearing he’d won the Tricolour award, Grotsky said it was “certainly humbling.”

“There’s so many students every year who do absolutely incredible things, many of whom are worthy [of this award],” he said. “It was great to receive the award, but for me the best part about it was the messages after from people who I haven’t spoken to in a long time … and many of those students who reached out to me also could’ve got the award.”

In the future, Grotsky hopes the University’s leaders will continue to empower students to pursue their passions.

“I think it’s easy for someone to look at me as someone who’s had the title of president and recognize contributions to the community,” he said. “But what I’ve found in my seven years here is that the real passion and the real commitment and accomplishments are done by ordinary students who don’t feel the need to have a title and are able to make really significant contributions in the way that means most to them.”

Alexandra Palmeri, Nursing ’18

In her own words, Palmeri has “been involved with the Nursing Science Society (NSS) for as many days as humanly possible in [her] undergraduate career.” Indeed, Palmeri’s involvement began in first year as an intern with the NSS. She then served as the society’s Academics and Career Coordinator before serving three full terms as NSS President.

Though Palmeri has been involved in various committees and initiatives throughout her time at Queen’s, she said her biggest achievement has been her “commitment to being an on-the-ground student leader.”

“Meeting one-on-one with as many students as I can over the course of my degree [has] certainly been for me the most fulfilling part of my role and the thing I’ll remember the most,” Palmeri said.

Palmeri called winning the Tricolour award a “humbling and beautiful experience.” 

“Having such an outpouring of love and support from the community … it’s been so overwhelming,” she said. “I think I speak for all of us when I say we have the utmost gratitude to every student, faculty member and alumni who put the time into sharing a little bit about our stories and put forward a nomination package in the first place.”

Max Garcia, CompSci ’18

Garcia’s extracurricular involvement at Queen’s began in his first year, when he served as representative for the Computing Students’ Association (COMPSA). He then served as the society’s Academic Affairs Commissioner and as COMPSA president in 2015-16.

Throughout his degree, Garcia has also been involved with the campus CFRC radio station as a volunteer host and in residences as a don and residence facilitator. He served as the AMS Media Services Director in 2016-17, and is currently the President of the Queen’s Student Alumni Association.

Though Garcia said he was honoured to receive the award, he believes his friends and peers were in fact happier for him than he was himself.

“Humbling is the perfect word [to describe winning],” Garcia said. “I think there was a lot of people happier for me than I was for myself [because] the things I’ve been involved in I haven’t done to get an award — I did them because I enjoyed them.”

In the future, Garcia hopes students will continue to find ways to get involved in the Queen’s community outside the classroom.

“I think fostering a sense of involvement for the students and letting them know that [they] can get involved in whatever they want to do is important,” he said. “There’s something out there for them, and it’s worth their time and their talent.”

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