by Cori Hilsgen
College of St. Benedict junior Kathryn Smith received the first Centennial Service Award at the Bennie Day of Service March 22 at the CSB Claire Lynch Hall.
The award recognizes a current CSB student for her service in the local area.
Smith is studying nursing. She is the daughter of Lisa and Bart Smith of Hermantown.
She was nominated by All Saints Academy Funzone Director Connie Bonacci. Smith has worked with the All Saints Academy aftercare program for three years and Bonacci is her supervisor.
“I was very surprised and honored to be nominated for this award,” Smith said. “I did not know that an award was being presented until I received an email notifying me I would be receiving it.
She said she was especially honored to find out Bonacci had nominated her.
“Connie is one of the strongest, most generous and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met, and I have been blessed to be able to work with her these past two years,” Smith said.
Smith was notified several days in advance that she had been selected to receive the award.
“I was able to be in touch with my parents and they came down to see me receive the award,” Smith said.
Some of her roommates, friends and others also attended the award ceremony.
“The award was presented by Jodi Terhaar, whose daughter I work with at All Saints Academy, so it was an incredibly special moment,” Smith said. “I have been absolutely floored by the support of the CSB/SJU community, my friends in St. Joseph and my family and friends in Duluth.”
Smith’s experience with service began with her church in Duluth. Her parents were involved with teaching Sunday School, doing maintenance projects and staffing the nursery outreach programs. Smith started volunteering in the nursery and at a local soup kitchen when she was 8 years old. She later volunteered at Essentia Heath/St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth for six years.
Smith said she is inspired by the diversity of interests and the passion for service at CSB. Many of her experiences at the college have been through her participation in the Bonner Leader Program, which is a nationwide program focusing on civic engagement and social justice. Bonner provides a scholarship and a work-study position, with a requirement that the work-study position be filled through a local position.
Smith began work with the ASA after-school program in October 2011. She has also worked with their Study Buddy tutoring program.
“The people I have met through my work at ASA have become an integral part of my life,” Smith said. “I cannot imagine my college experience without them, and I am thankful to have one more year to work at the school.”
Smith has also been involved with the United Cerebral Palsy Halloween party and stationary bike race, the Joe Town Table events and a campus ministry-sponsored program known as Alternative Break Experiences. Last year, she travelled to Kansas City, Mo. to work at Operation Breakthrough, which serves children living in urban poverty.
This year, Smith and another student from St. John’s University, Adam Kunkel, led a sex-trafficking awareness Alternative Break Experience to St. Paul. They worked with a Twin Cities-based organization, “Breaking Free,” which is dedicated to helping women out of sex trafficking and addresses the societal and systemic problems that contribute to sexual violence in our society. She also recently helped plan the Sex Trafficking Awareness Week at CSB and SJU.
“Sex trafficking and other forms of sexual violence seem to be taboo issues, but they are the heartbreaking reality,” Smith said. “Not just overseas, but in the Metro area, St. Cloud and my hometown, Duluth.”
Smith also teaches Sunday School at Resurrection Lutheran Church. Through the nursing program, she spent three weeks in Otavalo and Esperanza Azama, Ecuador in May 2013 and helped set up a dental clinic.
Smith said she feels she has received far more than she has given with her experiences.
“I do not think I would be able to be as involved in the community if it were not for the incredible women and men I am surrounded with on a daily basis,” Smith said. “Bennies and Johnnies and the faculty and staff who inspire us daily are passionate, intelligent and dedicated. If I am able to make a difference, I owe a great deal of credit to the campus community and the St. Joseph community at large that makes it possible through encouragement, instruction and inspiration.”
Criteria for receiving the Centennial Service Award includes a dedication to Benedictine values – respect for persons, listening, dignity of work, hospitality, stewardship, common good and justice – and a commitment to the local area through leadership, civic engagement and serving the common good.
CSB vice president for student development Mary Geller said the award is meant to honor someone who has given of her time and talent to the local and/or global communities.
Geller served as one of two co-chairs on the Centennial committee for the college. Bennie Day of Service was planned as a way to celebrate the Benedictine value of service to others for the common good. She said they are planning to continue this annual award.
“We are called to serve, to be God’s hand on earth and when we serve we are in communion with those we serve,” Geller said. “We learn as much if not more than we give. To serve is to feed the human spirit.”
A committee of three people – a CSB student, staff member and nun – determined Smith should receive the first Centennial Service Award. The committee unanimously agreed Smith deserved the award based on her strong leadership skills at ASA. They said they felt Smith leads with an example of what service should be about.
About 200 people participated in Benny Day of Service.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.