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Sheila Dumaraog never imagined attending college in the United States, much less establishing herself as a student leader here.

But after stepping onto Dominican University’s campus during summer SOAR nearly four years ago, Dumaraog’s destiny was set.

“I distinctly remember how Mark Carbonara would talk about the Torch Leaders — what they do here on campus and the impacts they have made,” Dumaraog, an accounting major, recalled. “From that moment on, I knew this was the right school for me.”

Dumaraog’s commitment to Caritas and Veritas through student leadership earned her the 2023 Mazzuchelli Award. The award is presented each year to a graduating senior who has demonstrated compassionate service and academic excellence.

Born and raised in Guam, Dumaraog traveled nearly 12,000 miles to attend Dominican University. Her sister, who was completing a master’s degree in Chicago and living in Oak Park at the time, suggested she apply to Dominican.

With the welcome and support she received from the campus community, the university quickly became a second home, Dumaraog said, and her love and appreciation for it made her want to be a representative to other students. She especially admired the help provided by Torch Leaders — students who lead orientation activities at SOAR and are available to answer questions and offer follow-up support to incoming students.  As her first year at Dominican wrapped up, Dumaraog applied to be a Torch Leader herself.

“I wanted to be that person who is there for others as they transition to Dominican,” she explained. “I wanted to share what I’ve experienced here so they’ll be able to get what I experienced too. I wanted them to feel the same sense of home I felt when I got here.”

Dumaraog went on to serve as a Peer Leader, advising new students on registering for classes, time management and how to find important resources. Her leadership continued as a resident assistant and through service with the Campus Activities Board, Student Government Organization, Resident Student Association, Cru Christian organization, and the Black Student Union. Her service extended to the furry population on campus as well: She was a caretaker for presidential pup, Rosie Bea.

“Sheila has given so much to the Dominican community and truly embodies the pillars of prayer, study, community, and service,” Mark Carbonara, assistant vice president of advancement, wrote in his nomination of Dumaraog for the Mazzuchelli Award. He noted that much of her leadership work was taken on during “some of the most difficult times of the pandemic,” making it that much more meaningful.

Dumaraog acknowledges that she was initially hesitant to step into leadership and service roles at Dominican, questioning whether she had the necessary skills. It was the Dominican community that empowered her, she said.

“I had to put myself out there and put myself in positions where I might feel uncomfortable because it was something new to me,” she said. “That prepared me to be more confident in those roles. The fact that Dominican is such a welcoming community, everything is out there for you. It’s just a matter of you taking that step. And that’s what I did.