Each year, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois names one outstanding student from each of the four-year degree-granting institutions in Illinois as the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award Student Laureate. The Governor bestows the awards, which honor the recipients’ leadership and service in the pursuit of the betterment of humanity. Knox College’s 2023 recipient was Angelica DeBenedictis '24.
DeBenedictis says they were shocked when they found the award letter in the mail. “I kept thinking to myself ‘They really chose me? This is insane.’ I just felt so taken by surprise,” they said.
An anthropology and sociology major, DeBenedictis came to Knox as a first-generation student, unsure of what college would entail. Like so many others, DeBenedictis' time at Knox started in classes hosted in a Zoom classroom as they began their first year in quarantine. Though they admit this was a challenging experience, the circumstances led to a desire to take part in as many campus activities as possible once campus life moved past COVID-19.
“Looking back at the first-year version of myself versus now, I’ve become resilient. It’s something I’ve carried with me ever since,” DeBenedictis said.
DeBenedictis has taken many opportunities to engage in activism across campus, which can be seen through their final project in their Working for Peace and Social Change class. They decided to pursue a project to persuade the College to assist in making campus buildings more accessible to physically disabled students. In their work as a research assistant in the Peace and Justice Studies program, they also jumpstarted the production and design for an abolitionist-inspired zine featuring poetry written by those incarcerated at Henry Hill Correctional Facility.
In their extracurricular time, they served as the campus life chair for the Food Recovery Network, a student-led club that assists local food banks in recovering leftover portions from Knox dining services that would otherwise end up as waste.
Over the summer, DeBenedictis interned at Beyond Hunger in Chicago. They worked as part of the Summer Meals program, providing breakfast to kids in summer school and assisting with the home delivery program that provides monthly grocery deliveries to homebound elderly and disabled clients.
“The internship definitely made me interested in a career in nonprofit work after I graduate,” they said. “I want to do something with an impact, something that will benefit underserved communities.”
In their final year, DeBenedictis wants to soak in as much of the Knox experience as possible. They’re hoping to engage with nature and environmentally focused clubs, while making sure to close out their degree with high marks on final research projects and classes. And, of course, they intend to make Flunk Day 2024 one to remember. “I really want to finish the year enjoying Knox as much as I can,” they said.