Campus & Community

Countdown to Commencement: Neda Kikhia graduates as CLA Student Leader of the Year

Neda Kikhia was named the Colorado Leadership Alliance 2016 Student Leader of the Year. Photo courtesy of Neda Kikhia

Neda Kikhia was named the Colorado Leadership Alliance 2016 Student Leader of the Year. Photo courtesy of Neda Kikhia

On Jan. 30, 2016, DU senior Neda Kikhia was excited but nervous. Kikhia was about to step into her most important interview to date: the one that would result in her being named the Colorado Leadership Alliance 2016 Student Leader of the Year.

“I was really surprised I was chosen,” says Kikhia, a double major in communication studies and religious studies. “When they announced my name, I just sat there for a second as the room started to clap and my peers from PLP [Pioneer Leadership Program] went crazy. That moment warms my heart; there was so much genuine love and support.”

Each year, DU’s PLP nominates one student to compete against his or her counterparts from 13 schools around Colorado for the leadership award. Kikhia has been part of PLP since her freshman year and remembers watching each year as a senior was nominated for the award.

The award is presented through the Boettcher Foundation and the Denver Metro Leadership Foundation, organizations that do a lot of work for business professionals around leadership in Colorado. Once a student is nominated, she must write four 200-word essays, submit three letters of recommendation and have a final interview.

“When I think about the process,” Kikhia recalls, “I really think about all of the people who contributed their time and helped [me] through it all. For one, the Writing Center at DU was amazing in helping me figure out the essays I had to compose.”

Throughout her DU career, Kikhia has been heavily involved in the Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning (CCESL). The experiences she had there enhanced her candidacy for the CLA award.

“When I look back on my DU experience,” Kikhia says, “I always think of CCESL at the core of what has shaped me, in so many ways.”

Through CCESL, Kikhia worked with Public Achievement, an organization dedicated to building meaningful relationships with students in Denver Public Schools.

“Public Achievement is all about working with students to figure out issues in their communities that make them mad, and then discussing how we can fix the situation,” Kikhia says. “I am a huge advocate for service learning, which is taking what you have learned in a classroom and applying it to real-world experiences.”

After graduating in June, Kikhia plans either to work as a group leader in AmeriCorps, a service program that places members in positions with nonprofits across the United States, or to work with College Track, a college-access program she first encountered in her work with Public Achievement.

“That is a dream job of mine,” Kikhia says of working with College Track. “I would get to go around the country and look at different colleges that my high school students would be interested in, and then help them in the application process.”






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