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Loyola presents Ignatian Awards for graduating students at Baccalaureate Mass

Loyola press release - May 4, 2015

A health care professional who seeks to inspire others, an economics student who helps the poor in his native Honduras, a biologist working to prevent infectious diseases and a brilliant law school student are the recipients of Loyola University New Orleans' 2015 Ignatian Awards — the highest awards given to graduating students who have represented the university with honor and distinction as students as well as members of the Loyola community.

Pedro Benitez, Annie McClure and Warren Hebert will be presented with the Ignatian Awards at the Baccalaureate Mass to be held on Friday, May 8 at 4 p.m. in the University Sports Complex. Collin R. Melancon will be presented the 2015 Spirit of St. Ignatius Award at the Law Graduation Mass on Thursday, May 7 at 3:30 p.m. in Holy Name of Jesus Church.

The Outstanding Ignatian Senior Man award will go to Benitez, a native of Honduras, who is graduating magna cum laude with double majors in economics and finance. He is the president of the University Honors Association, president of the Economics Club and is an active member of the International Student Association, among other organizations. At Loyola, he established the literacy program “Mission Imprint,” in which honors students work weekly with grade school students at Renew Cultural Arts Academy, a charter school for children living in poverty. Now in its third semester, the program has 35 student volunteers, has garnered more than $3,000 in cash and book donations from the community and has earned a $1,000 grant from the National Collegiate Honors Council. He is a member of Christian Life Communities and a Eucharistic minister in the Ignatius Chapel community. This semester Benitez also designed the “rational vote project” as part of the social venture initiative for the Tulane Changemaker Institute, which prototyped an online matching quiz to pair voters with representatives based on preferences to make learning easy and fun.

McClure, who will graduate magna cum laude with a double major in biology and Latin American studies, is the recipient of the Outstanding Ignatian Senior Woman award. She is graduating with honors in biology, having completed an important research project describing the strains of the Chagas parasite present in the main kissing bug species in Central America. In addition to the two years she worked on the parasite in the laboratory, she also spent a semester in Ecuador helping researchers there investigate the kissing bugs that transmit the parasite. In the field, she created flyers to solicit the help of the public in collecting the kissing bugs in the U.S. and in Guatemala and El Salvador.

An Ignacio Volunteer to Belize in 2012, she returned in 2013 as a team leader. She taught English and math and directed sports activities. She was the Loyola student representative for the Ignatian Solidarity Network, working throughout the year on immigration issues. She also was a volunteer coordinator for setting up a pop-up dental clinic that treated more than 1,000 patients, facilitated games for residents at The Good Shepard School, served as a retreat leader for the Office of Mission and Ministry and conducted a Catholic Teach-in on immigration for Catholic youth for high school students. She also has worked for six months with Catholic Charities Head Start, assisting teachers in providing bilingual education to low-income students.

Hebert will receive the award for Outstanding Graduate Student. Having received his bachelor of science degree in nursing, as well as his master's, Hebert soon will earn his doctorate of nursing practice. He is the CEO for the Homecare Association of Louisiana.

While he is active in his profession, he also is dedicated to improving health care in the state while serving as a mentor to other health care students. He co-founded the Certificate for OASIS Specialist-Clinical exam, which has tested more than 10,000 home care professionals. He has served on the board of Families Helping Families of Acadiana, the Louisiana Rural Health Association, and the Advocacy Center in Louisiana, an organization that provides support to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. In 2011, Hebert served as a founding member of Men Entering Sacred Space, a multi-denominational organization that focuses on male spirituality and meets once a quarter to discuss the roles of men, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers in the community.

At the Transcultural Nursing Society meeting in New Orleans in April, Warren was scheduled to present a keynote address sharing the experience of travel to India where he led a group of health care workers to Tibetan communities to observe traditions on aging, family caregiving, end of life care, and death and dying. Warren’s capstone project in the DNP program is enhancing provider competencies in engaging family caregivers.

Melancon, who will receive the 2015 Spirit of St. Ignatius Award, is a third-year law student at Loyola, where he holds the position of candidate development and symposium editor for the Law Review. Before attending law school, he worked as a reserve sheriff deputy for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. He also serves as chief justice for the Loyola Honor Board, has competed as an oralist/brief writer for the 2013-14 Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court team, and has held positions as vice president of Loyola’s student division of the Federal Bar Association and as a legal research and writing teaching assistant.

As an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University, Melancon led several Catholic mission trips for fraternity and sorority members to impoverished areas of Mexico and Costa Rica, helping the communities with the distribution of food, gifts and through prayer. After a prayerful decision to attend Loyola's College of Law, Melancon continued to find opportunities to use the gifts he developed in law school to try to serve others. He continues to lead retreats for his Catholic high school in Lafayette, using his skills and education to challenge high school students to find a deeper connection to their faith. He also serves the New Orleans community, volunteering at the Crescent City Cafe to feed the homeless.

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