For the 19 Order of Pegasus recipients, their time spent at UCF is decorated with involvement, stellar academics and praise-worthy accomplishments. However, the road to the university's highest honor is littered with potholes and detours as well.
Order of Pegasus, an award that recognizes exemplary performance in the areas of academic achievement, outstanding university involvement, leadership and community service, has recognized 19 individuals who broadly represent the community within the university.
The award is known as "the most prestigious and significant award" UCF has to offer, and was formerly seen as a "stretch goal" for most students.
Gerald Richardson, a senior biomedical sciences major and award recipient, discovered the difficulties early. Although involvement is a big part of his time at UCF, after the loss of his grandmother during his sophomore year, he discovered his own resilience.
"[Students] must find purpose outside of the classroom. You won't learn to communicate without getting your nose out of the textbook," Richardson said. "This award recognizes a lot more than Gerald. It recognizes my grandma. I know she'd be proud."
The third-generation Knight is involved in the Student Undergraduate Research Council, the President's Leadership Council and 4EVER KNIGHTS, the largest student organization.
"When I put my mind to something, I accomplish it," he said.
Unlike Richardson's family of Knights, award recipient Alice Neira is the first in her family to attend college.
Neira, a senior political science major, entered college with a strong focus solely on academia, resulting in a successful freshman year.
From then on, she was able to make time for her passion of volunteering, becoming the Hunger & Homelessness director for Volunteer UCF.
Aaron Pollock, another recipient of the award, has also proven that involvement in the university can go a long way.
During his freshman year, Pollock was involved with research, having his thesis published with the Honors College. The senior health sciences major has also taken on the roles as a supervisor at the Student Union and a member of PLC.
With the help of a mentor to guide him along his successful path, Pollock has chosen to pass the help on to others, which he now enjoys.
Like other award recipients, senior marketing major Dwayne Houston added that it's important to stay focused and humble, and always strive for excellence.
As Order of Pegasus looks for students who can represent the university, Houston's internship with Procter & Gamble has allowed him to show off his abilities, running an account worth more than $277 million.
Jill Dutmers, a senior English literature major, has also showed commitment through her involvement, which is what ultimately gave her recognition for Order of Pegasus.
Dutmers is in the Burnett Honors College, and has taken on the leadership roles of historian of PLC and president of 4EVER KNIGHTS.
"I was ecstatic. I'm thankful for the opportunities UCF has offered. UCF has shaped me as a person," she said on receiving the reward.
Order of Pegasus means much more to these students than a just an award. It highlights their time at UCF, represents the countless people in their lives and recognizes hard work and dedication.
Order of Pegasus recipients:
Jorge Andres Hernandez
Richard Joshua Murdock
Johnathan Kuntz is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.