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SXU Student Cydni Washington-Bolden Named Student Laureate


Saint Xavier University communication student Cydni Washington-Bolden has been recognized as a Student Laureate by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Each year, an outstanding senior from each of the state's four-year degree-granting colleges and universities is awarded the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award and thereby becomes a Student Laureate. Student Laureates are honored for their leadership and service and are reflective of the diverse populace of the State of Illinois. 

"I feel a strong sense of pride and humility to have received the honor of becoming a Student Laureate. Being recognized for such a prestigious achievement holds unparalleled significance to me, beyond compare to any level of prestige I could have envisioned in life. This honor is especially meaningful because at one point, I doubted my capability to be a leader and struggled to understand a leader's role in serving the community and society. However, I am incredibly grateful that I didn't give up on myself, even during challenging times like the untimely passing of my late father just two days before starting my first semester at SXU in 2020, amid a pandemic. Six weeks later, my great aunt passed away and my family grappled with more loss. I am grateful for their sacrifices to put me through college, and I dedicate this special honor to them, along with my loved ones we lost too soon," said Washington-Bolden.  

To Washington-Bolden, civic engagement means doing right by yourself in service to others, not out of obligation but because it's the right thing to do.  

"It's akin to creating a ripple effect that helps make the world go round. When you invest your time and efforts in something invaluable and significant in the present day, even the smallest impact can be the saving grace that touches someone else's life. If that isn't a testament to honor, I'm not sure what is," said Washington-Bolden.

Washington-Bolden believes that leadership is about leading by example, building resilience, and leading with kindness, empathy, dignity, respect, integrity, and compassion at all times. 

"As a woman of color, I believe I embody redeemable leadership qualities despite being faced with unexpected adversity. While living in the small village of Riverdale, I refused to let my circumstances define me or be treated differently based on preconceived notions, stigmas and judgments. Despite being an underdog from a non-affluent neighborhood or sometimes ostracized by those who don't share an experience similar to mine, I took a leap of faith and dedicated myself to pay it forward, demonstrating the true value that can emerge from resembling a servant leader and embracing diversity," said Washington-Bolden.  

"Leading by example sometimes means standing alone, rising after a fall, and continually defining one's purpose. It involves speaking up, asking tough questions, and standing up for what you believe in. Leadership isn't about solitude but inspiring others to lead by example, so they too can encourage continuous learning and drive, embrace change, and seek opportunities," continued Washington-Bolden.  

Washington-Bolden is inspired by Saint Xavier's Mercy mission and has lived by the values of the Sisters of Mercy for much of her adolescent life, having graduated from Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School.  

"I recognized Catherine McAuley as a servant leader whose legacy bridged the gaps and core foundation of leadership rather than building barriers in underserved communities and during times of crisis, conflict and dire need, shaping a path for our evolving world. Seeking truth involves doing moral good, critical thinking means holding onto hope for a better tomorrow, effective communication requires speaking from the heart and maintaining an open mind, and serving wisely and compassionately means immersing yourself in others' lived experiences and understanding human suffering. Humbling yourself, demonstrating empathy in actions, and seeking to understand others are essential components of this mission," said Washington-Bolden. 

Washington-Bolden was initially drawn to communication and media studies in high school when her interest in broadcast journalism piqued. She enjoyed learning about scriptwriting, video editing, and video post-production processes and began creating short-form videos on Snapchat and then podcasting, eventually creating her own self-improvement podcast, "Made Originally in Cydd's WrLd," on Spotify, garnering over 900 total plays.  

During her time at SXU, she has participated in the Summer Media Camp with SXU's radio station, WXAV, on which she also had a show called "Cydd's Extraordinary WrLD," where she honed the art of storytelling. She also served as a news and sports copyeditor for The Xaverite, where she learned about revisions, meeting tight publication deadlines, scheduling interviews, and fact-checking.  

"Being part of the Communication and Media Studies program at SXU has made me more open to creative thinking and holding myself accountable, especially in the responsibility of telling honest, impactful stories for the SXU community. My courses fostered versatility and problem-solving skills and group collaboration helped shape my perspective uniquely. This program went beyond limits in my quality education experience," said Washington-Bolden.  

Washington-Bolden appreciates how SXU is preparing her with the practical skills that are essential to paving her way for the future.  

"Attending various events from networking sessions to leadership summits and being recognized as a Robert and Mary Rita Stump Perpetual Scholarship recipient has allowed me to gain confidence, step out of my comfort zone, assume leadership roles, grow open to experiencing and sharing new ideas during workshops, serve as a student panelist at open house events, be part of the presidential search process, and establish lasting professional connections. I feel well-prepared and ready to make my mark on the world because SXU has ensured I am well on my way," said Washington-Bolden.  

Part of Washington-Bolden's confidence in her preparedness comes from the high-impact opportunities she's been involved in and projects she's worked on. She's currently completing two eye-opening projects involving original research.  

"My senior seminar project is titled 'Transforming Workplace Communication: A Flexible Organizational Approach to Achieving Work-Life Balance' and my senior honors capstone project is titled 'The Lingering Effects of Social Media Isolation Past the COVID-19 Pandemic.' Both will be presented this spring. I've invested valuable time and effort to work tirelessly on these huge project undertakings and am cautiously optimistic all my commendable time and efforts will pay off in the long run," said Washington-Bolden. 

Washington-Bolden is currently a member of the Lambda Pi Eta (LPH) Beta Alpha Kappa chapter through the National Communication Association (NCA) and the Emerging Scholars Program. During her time at SXU, she has served as a member of Student Media, orientation leader, peer minister, Quest leader, and writing consultant. She is currently a student worker for the Center for Accessibility Resources. What she loves most about being part of those organizations is the opportunity to apply herself, connect with new people, and be surrounded by like-minded individuals who understand the unique challenges of life. She believes being involved both on and off campus has contributed significantly to her growth as a student, especially her service work in volunteering at local food banks and nonprofit organizations.  

"Celebrating academic, professional and personal successes not only highlights our achievements, but also signifies there is so much more to look forward to and accomplish throughout our lives. We possess the ability to bring about the change we want to see and be the change we aspire to be in every aspect of our college experiences," said Washington-Bolden.  

Washington-Bolden is sincerely grateful for SXU Student Media, communication faculty, the Office of the Dean of Students, former SXU presidents and current President Keith Elder, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, and her family, who've all played a part in mentoring, uplifting, and motivating her in achieving this honor. 

As Washington-Bolden looks to the future, she is excited to apply the valuable skills she's gained during her time at SXU. Though she initially wanted to pursue investigative journalism, her career interests have shifted toward HR and recruiting based on previous corporate internships she's completed during her time at SXU. She believes that she's gotten to refine valuable skills, which have allowed her to navigate fast-paced environments while balancing academics and her personal life.  

Washington-Bolden has a full-time job lined up post-graduation and will join the 12-month Claims Trainee Program at CNA Insurance in Chicago. She is also considering pursuing a master's degree and is committed to lifelong learning.  

"I look forward to not only taking charge of my highly anticipated future but also discovering where my career and life will take my in the next chapter. The world awaits."