Community College Technology Students Awarded Scholarships at League’s Innovations Conference


Three outstanding technology students were honored with Terry O’Banion Student Technology Awards at the League’s Innovations Conference on Monday, March 19. Named for the League’s President Emeritus, who assisted in Monday’s presentation, the two awards—Student Developer Champion and Student Technology Champion—celebrate the achievements of community college students pursuing careers in technology fields. Each honoree received a $2,500 scholarship and a commemorative plaque. 

The Student Developer Champion award, presented annually to a student preparing for a career in software development, was presented to Ethan P. Pawelski, who is enrolled in the Application Development program at Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac, Michigan. Pawleski has undertaken, on a voluntary basis, tutoring his fellow students in app development as his college’s tutoring department does not provide this service. Ethan maintains a 4.0 GPA, and, after earning a two-year Application Development A.A.S. as a distinguished graduate, he plans to complete a bachelor’s degree, also in Application Development. “Ethan is intelligent, ambitious, driven, and extremely creative. He can MacGyver all sorts of innovative contraptions and goes above and beyond to exceed my expectations,” stated Professor Christine Stiles in nominating Pawelski for the award.

The Student Technology Champion award was presented to two students seeking careers in other areas of technology: Emilie C. Robertson, a student at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Arnold, Maryland; and Michael Vazquez, a student at Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) in Palos Hills, Illinois, were presented their awards.

Robertson is enrolled in AACC’s Web Design and Small Business degree program. Overcoming challenging circumstances, she is working her way through college and maintains a 4.0 GPA; she is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa. With a demonstrated focus, attention to detail, and innate creativity, she supports her concepts with a strong understanding of technology and balances it with a deep empathy for people who use the Web. Her instructor, Erik Dunham, explained in his nomination letter, “Web design gives her a chance to help others communicate their messages to millions of other people in ways that are creative and new.” He stated that he is “continually impressed with her observations and desire to make the Web a useful space for everyone.”

Vazquez, a student in MVCC’s Information Management Systems program, earned eight industry certifications in his academic career while studying part-time over a five-year period. He was recommended for this award based on his outstanding academic performance and perseverance to overcome family and cultural barriers to higher education. A first-generation college student working his way through school, Vazquez plans to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in the technology field. He serves on campus as a technology tutor, building empathetic relationships with his fellow students. In nominating him, Department Chair Michelle August said, “In my seventeen years of teaching, few students have matched him in kindness, genuineness, and positivity. Michael has technical skills and people skills in equal abundance; a rare find!”

League Membership and Social Media Director Sherry Sklar, who coordinates the Terry O’Banion Student Technology Awards process, noted, “This year’s award-winning students have demonstrated a passion for technology, a commitment to their education and community, and financial need. All three recipients possess exceptional qualities and have remarkable life stories to tell, all of which sparked the interest of the selection committee.”

The League’s Terry O’Banion Student Technology Awards are sponsored by Innovative Educators.