Washington Named among Esteemed Lincoln Academy Student Laureates

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Keelah Washington, a senior English major with a concentration in secondary English language arts, is being honored by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois for her leadership, service and overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.

Washington, a Chicago native, received the Academy’s esteemed Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award, on behalf of SIUE, during the 43rd Annual Student Laureate Award Ceremony held Saturday, Nov. 11 in Springfield.

“After a University-wide nomination procedure, Keelah was selected from a group of academically outstanding students,” said Paul Rose, PhD, interim dean of the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior (SEHHB). “The award recipient is honored not only for academic achievement, but also for leadership and service. It was Keelah’s extensive experience as a leader on- and off-campus that truly made her stand out.”

Washington’s desire to become a leader and make a difference was formed at a young age. She is committed to positively impacting and changing lives in all she does.

“Because I’ve seen how cyclical poverty, poor mental health and violence can be first hand, my biggest concern is to give back, while promoting others to do the same,” Washington said. “Although there is supposedly a difference between curricular and extracurricular, in my eyes, they are all necessary to fulfill my God-given purpose, both at the University level and in the U.S.”

According to Washington, her career aspirations “change with the weather,” but her pursuit of a degree in secondary English education is setting her in a good direction.

“Most people realize that a high school English classroom could be the last chance for a student to spend time in the humanities,” she explained. “It’s a catch-all position, because it would be my job as a teacher to turn these students into humanitarians and world-changers in a single semester. And I want that.”

“From our first meeting, I was impressed with Keelah’s enthusiasm for public education and her understanding of the ways in which teaching English language and literature intersect with increasing cultural awareness and developing participatory communities,” Jill K. Anderson, PhD, associate professor of English and program director of secondary English education in the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in her recommendation letter. “Her activism defines her. Keelah is not content with the status quo. Her commitment to social change translates into full-throttled action, whether in the classroom or in her various campus roles.”

The state’s student laureates receive a Student Laureate Medallion, a $1,000 educational grant and a certificate of achievement.

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