Leadership in Civic Engagement Awards and Scholarships

16th Annual Leadership in Civic Engagement Awards

Since April 2005, SUNY Cortland has presented its annual Leadership in Civic Engagement Awards and Scholarships to students, staff and faculty, and community members. These awards recognize the important contributions of individuals and groups both on and off campus to the quality of life at SUNY Cortland and to our shared Cortland community.

Customarily we hold a Leadership in Civic Engagement Awards Reception at the end of April. Award recipients were to have been formally recognized by SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum and Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin at a celebration hosted by John Suarez, Director of the Institute for Civic Engagement. However, considering the current requirements of social distancing and the restrictions of the Covid-19 Pandemic, we are substituting the annual reception with a virtual awards recognition.

"This change in venue does not diminish the contributions made by these notable awardees. We hope you will join us in celebrating each and every awardee for their contribution to our community"

Please enjoy congratulatory messages from each of our speakers!

John Suarez, Director, Institute for Civic Engagement

Erik Bitterbaum, President of SUNY Cortland

Mayor Brain Tobin, Mayor of Cortland


2019 Leadership in Civic Engagement Awards

Community Members

  • Ethan Myers, Cortland High School Student
  • Abigail Shaffer, Cortland High School Student
  • Susan Williams, Assistant Director, Seven Valleys Health Coalition
  • Valerie Van Gorder, Vice President, Bailey Insurance

 Community Groups

  • Cortland Historical Society
  • “Girls Day Out” Committee, Cortland YWCA
  • Mental Health Sub-Committee Cortland County
  • The Warming Center


  • Timothy Davis, Associate Professor, Physical Education
  • Krista Natale, Technology Support Specialist


  • Cynthia Briggs
  • Gianna Bruno
  • Marisa D'amico
  • Jose Escalera Cruz
  • Freddy Familia
  • Megan Gibbons
  • Lucy Harwood
  • Shanazha Hobbs
  • Ashley Jones
  • Veronica Pereau
  • Alex Rheaume
  • Melissa Safford
  • Ashley Scarantino
  • Kayla Spangenberg
  • Emily Speciale
  • Emily Tabb
  • Eric von Roeschlaub

Donald M. Wilcox Civic Engagement Award

  • Abigail Shaffer, Cortland High School Student
  • Susan Williams, Assistant Director. Seven Valleys Health Coalition

Cortland Area Chapter of the Alumni Association’s Community Service Award

  • Veronica Pereau, SUNY Cortland Student

 Leadership In Civic Engagement Award Winners

Community Members

Ethan Myers

  • Volunteer with Cortland Child Advocacy Center
  • Made needed blankets for children at center
  • Enlisted the help of his football team to make blankets  

        Ethan Myers.LCE      

Abigail Shaffer

  • Created Cortland High School's Purple Pantry (Food Bank)
  • Recruited volunteers and donations
  • Transferred the Pantry to her home to distribute food curbside once schools closed

               Abigail Shaffer.LCE

Susan Williams

  • Works tirelessly to ensure healthy food is accessible to everyone in the community
  • Serves on, and leads committees working to improve the community
  • Helps area agencies to write and execute grants

           Susan Williams.LCE

Valerie Van Gorder

  • Organized and conducted annual Cortland Clean-up
  • Serves on local boards and committees
  • Volunteers for local events and helps with fund raising

       Val Vangorder

Community Groups

Cortland Historical Society

CCHS (1)Programphoto

  • Preserves buildings, landmarks, documents, traditions and all matter of historical artifacts of Cortland County
  • Promotes the many historical events, traditions, and treasures of Cortland
  • Educates the public, supplies expertise, and collaborates with schools and area agencies
  • Offers opportunities for SUNY Cortland students to be active in the research and preservation of historical materials and offers lectures and sandwich seminars so anyone can avail themselves of the many materials and artifacts they maintain

“Girls Day Out” Committee, Cortland YWCA

Kelly Tobin, Director


  • An annual event offering girls in grades 4-7 unique motivating and engaging activities
  • Gives girls the opportuity to explore interesting careers and try different sports like gymnastics and swimming
  • Teaches girls about self-esteem and stress management

Mental Health Sub-Committee Cortland CountyMental Health Subcommittee

  • Agency representatives, practitioners, and community members gather once a month to share information regarding the challenges, resources, opportunities and data on the status of mental health in Cortland County
  • Impacts both the availability and quality of services in the area for all residents of our community - seniors, working parents, children, the incarcerated, veterans, and the homeless
  • Instrumental in establishing a mobile crisis unit and in acquiring special housing with an on-site manager who assists clients while ensuring they have a safe home environment. Housing has been a emphatic need locally for many years
  • Provides training and resources throughout the community and to each other to ensure Cortland offers the most comprehensive and effective possible services

The Warming Center

The Warming Center

  • Grace & Holy Spirit Church in partnership with the Department of Social Services (SS) and the Salvation Army supply a comfortable space where the homeless can go to stay warm during frigid temperatures
  • Supported and run by the agencies and trained volunteers
  • Also offers food and other necessities to those staying

SUNY Cortland Faculty/Staff

Tim Davis, Associate Professor, Physical Education

  • Launched the Sensory Integration Motor Sensory (SIMS) Lab as a way of helping children with sensory/motor concerns
  • Uses the Lab to help parents and teachers learn how to work with children
  • Hosts service-learning students and interns from a variety of majors
  • Expanded the Lab to become the SIMS/Movement Exploration Center continues to develop the Lab on his own time

            Tim Dabvbis.Sensory Program1

Krista Natale, Technology Support Specialist

  • Generates and engages enthusiasm for both campus and community events and programs
  • Volunteers for Alumni and other campus events 
  • Promotes Cortland downtown events, like the Main Street Music series, and also works at the concerts

    Krista Natale selfie       Alumni Weekend 2019.Krista Natale


Cynthia Briggs

  • Assumed leadership roles in both Education Club and Inclusive Education Club where she has served as Vice President
  • Has volunteered for a number of events but her favorite service project was making blankets for Habitat for Humanity

    Briggs2      Briggs Hayes Hall

Gianna Bruno

  • Volunteers with the Salvation Army and participates in the Baking Memories 4Kids program
  • Donated to Meals on Wheels and participated in a book drive for the YWCA

                    Gianna Bruno.LCE

Marisa D'amico

  • An active leader in Education Club has volunteered with many events, such as "Girls' Day Out" and "Yards for Yearly"
  • A member of the Field Hockey team, Marisa has served as a volunteer coach for kids attending clinics and workshops


Jose Escalera Cruz

  • Volunteers at the local Blueberry festival each year, supporting farm to table efforts
  • Has become a regular volunteer at Pumpkinfest helping out in a variety of ways to ensure a successful and fun even

 Jose Escalera Cruz

Freddy Familia

  • President of Sports Management club, and an RA at Hayes Hall
  • Coordinator with the EOP Summer Institute and serves as Historian with La Familia Latina

           Freddy Familia.LCE

Megan Gibbons

  • An active member of SGA and serves as the Director of the Treasury, and an RA
  • Volunteers with the SUNY Cortland's EMS squad helping to keep the campus safe 
  • Works many campus and community events, such as Take Back the Night, Kid's Trick or Treat, and Spring Fling

 Megan Gibbons      MeganGibbons.Cobra head

Lucy Harwood

  • Participated in several community clean-up efforts and in food drives to acquire donations to the Cortland YWCA and the Cortland Cupboard
  • Volunteered with Dragons' Dress for Success Clothing Closet which supplies professional clothing to students
  • Devoted many hours to registering student voters and helped organize a Tenants' Rights Panel on campus

           Lucy Harwood.LCE

Shana'zha Hobbs

  • Volunteers as a Welcome Leader to new students and services on the Alcohol Advisory Committee as a member of SGA
  • Active with NYPIRG and serves as a campus Green Representative


Ashley Jones

  • Volunteered her time to work in the local food pantry 
  • Raised funds to supply food for local families through her participation in the annual crop walk for the last two years
  • Has walked in the annual "Relay for Life" Fundraiser for three years

                              Ashley Jones

Veronica Pereau

  • Works closely with autistic children at a summer camp and a local school program
  • Helped create a recreation-based after-school program to teach special-needs kids different weekly themes through intentional games and activities


Alex Rheaume and Eric von Roeschlaub

  • Alex participates in both PRIDE Club and Interfaith Crew and has fought for better accessibility for both LGBTQ+ students and students with autism
  • As SGA Rep for PRIDE Club, Eric advocates for LGBTQ+ students and worked with Student Housing to gain all-gender housing for trans students
  • Both Alex and Eric have participated as panelist at various events including the Trans Action Conference in March

Alex Rheaume n Eric von Roenschlaub    Gender Presentation Eric & Alex

Melissa Safford

  • As a member of NYPIRG, helped with many campus and community events which included planning and participating in drives to collect donations of food, clothing, and hygiene products for the Cortland Cupboard and Cortland Clothing Closet
  • Helped to cover more than 45 volunteers hours with the Cortland Cupboard food pantry
  • Volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help build a home in Dryden

                                Melissa Safford

Ashley Scarantino

  • Devoted more than 100 hours coaching area youth in gymnastics
  • Serves on the SUNY SACC leadership committee and in this role has helped plan and execute such important events as "Yards for Yeardly" and Mental Health Awareness campaigns
  • Participated in several food drives, collecting food to donate to local food banks like Cortland Loaves and Fishes

                      Ashley Scarantino

Kayla Spangenberg

  • Worked as a volunteer with a local agency - Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland county
  • Helped local families through the "Adopt A Family" program that supplies food, gifts, and funds for the Christmas holiday
  • Participates yearly in "Yards for Yeardly" to spread awareness about domestic violence and to help raise funds

                          Spangenberg.certifciate photo

Emily Speciale

  • Has participated in food drives and raised money for breast cancer awareness
  • Volunteered with Empty Bowls and Habitat for Humanity
  • Served as a volunteer coach to kids ages 4-13 in SUNY Cortland's Tumbling and More program for over three years

Emily S

Special Awards

Donald M. Wilcox Civic Engagement Award

For their work to combat poverty, hunger, and homelessness in Cortland County

Abigail Shaffer.Wilcox       Susan Williams.Wilcox

Abigail Shaffer                                                    Susan Williams

Cortland Area Chapter of the Alumni Association’s Community Service Award

For her exemplary work with autistic children

Veronic Pereau.Alumni

 Veronica Pereau

Congratulations to all or our award winners!

Photo Gallery

Tim Davis's SIMS Lab

  T.Davis.SensoryPrg.2   TDSensoryPrg.

YWCA Girl's Day Out Program

GDO8      GDO.Science.11  

GDO9    GDOpool.10

GDO5      GDO.1

Ethan Myer's Basketball Team


Susan Williams, unloading donations of healthy greens

       Food Program - Susan WIlliams