Last week, 20 students were notified they would be inducted into the Order of Pegasus, UCF's most prestigious award.
Among the selected undergraduate and graduate students were LEAD Scholars, members of the President’s Leadership Council, Student Government Association leaders, Burnett Honors College students, Greek members and past and present student athletes.
It was the exemplary academic achievement, university involvement and leadership portrayed by the inductees that earned them the award. Students were nominated by representatives of the UCF community, such as the president, provost and vice president, vice provosts, student body president and the director of athletics.
The extensive resumes of each inductee, combined with essays, recommendations and personal interviews, were examined by the selection committee that named them recipients.
The inductees will join past recipients on the wall in the Student Union — known as the Pegasus Lounge — with plaques and photographs to commemorate the honor.
While each of the inductees has vastly different resumes documenting their years of service, they have one thing in common: They are representatives of the core values of UCF. Combined, they make up some of the university’s most influential students and leaders.The Central Florida Future spotlighted a few of the recipients.
Amy Bonilla Torres, senior finance major
In addition to serving as a resident assistant for first-year students at the Neptune Community, Bonilla Torres leads the operations at the UCF Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, where she plans events to showcase entrepreneurial services for students. Bonilla Torres is a member and retreat coordinator of the President’s Leadership Council, where she serves as a student ambassador at events such as Board of Trustees meetings and Board of Governors meetings. Additionally, Bonilla Torres is a part of the Student Development and Enrollment Services Student Advisory Council. Previously, she has served as an inaugural ambassador to the UCF College of Business Ambassador Program.
While Bonilla Torres’ achievements are plentiful, she said her service is what has allowed her to leave a legacy at UCF.
“I would say it wasn’t my achievements, but rather how I’ve decided to give back to UCF that allowed me to stand out,” Bonilla Torres said. “I feel that each accomplishment and opportunity has allowed me to pass the torch to new students, and also learn and grow in the process. The honor isn’t about me, but about how UCF can change a student’s life forever.”
Bonilla Torres, who was born in Honduras, is the first in her family to graduate from an American institution. Thankful to her family and endless opportunities at UCF, Bonilla said she is humbled by the honor.
“Receiving this recognition also makes me feel a sense of accomplishment that I served UCF in as many ways as UCF changed me," she said.
Kamilia Crawford, senior legal studies major
As a cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp, Crawford was the recipient of the AFROTC Military Order of the World Wars award, the AFROTC General Society of the War of 1812 award, and other scholarships including the Robert and Pamela Kirby Endowed Scholarship and the Skura Family Freedom Scholarship.
In addition to her service with AFROTC, Crawford serves as resident assistant in the Libra Community and a member of the President’s Leadership Council. Previously, she has served as president of the National Residence Hall Honorary, social chair of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and on the financial committee of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity.
Crawford said the honor of the Order of Pegasus will allow her to represent her alma mater forever.
“This award not only represents my achievements but it also shows that anyone can overcome adversity and achieve their dreams,” Crawford said. "UCF has provided me with life-long skills, relationships, and opportunities that I would have never had if I attended a different institution.”
Melissa Westbrook, second-year public administration and nonprofit management graduate student
In addition to serving on the President’s Leadership Council, Westbrook serves as a graduate assistant to Dr. Kerry Welch in SDES and as a research assistant to Dr. Qian Hu of the College of Health and Public Affairs. Furthermore, she works as an event lead at Feeding Children Everywhere, where she travels to lead hunger projects for children.
During her undergraduate career, Westbrook served as UCF student body president, an ambassador for Global UCF, a member of the Board of Trustees and as the student director of the Multicultural Student Center.
Westbrook said that her extensive involvement on campus as an undergraduate student led her to a lack of balance between her advocacy work and her studies. Being honored by the Order of Pegasus means a second chance.
“Thanks to great mentorship from the faculty and staff at UCF, I am now a graduate student with an excellent GPA and [am] simultaneously involved in research, UCF organizations and the community as well,” Westbrook said. “I am so grateful to be a UCF Knight. This university has been a place where I have been given the freedom to grow at my own pace and on my own terms. UCF respects student individuality — isn't that cool?”
Alex Carciente Moreno, senior political science major
Moreno has been involved on campus since his freshman year. He served as a member of the LEAD Scholars Program, where he founded Knights Go Pink for breast cancer awareness and fundraising. He later became the campus activities director. Moreno has also served as Skit Knight director for UCF Homecoming, vice chairman for the Conference Registration and Travel Committee of SGA and campus engagement coordinator for KnightPAC.
In his junior year, Moreno traveled to Tallahassee with UCF’s Legislative Scholars Program, and worked full-time for the speaker of the Florida House, Steve Crisafulli. Morena said he believes this his most notable achievement.
“I was given the opportunity to represent this great university in the Office of the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives,” he said. “This experience deepened my understanding of the university and Florida politics.”
Currently, he is legislative student assistant to the senior vice president for university relations, Dan Holsenbeck.
“Becoming an inductee of the Order of Pegasus means a lifetime of representing the university that has given me so much in a short amount of time,” Moreno said. “I hold UCF in the highest esteem possible for providing me with the values and skill-set to be successful in an ever-changing 21st century.”
Paulina Le, senior biomedical sciences major
As part of the Burnett Honors College, Le served as an Honors peer ambassador, guiding incoming honors students through orientation, and as an Honors Congress director of volunteer affairs. Through the Honors Educational Reach-Out program, Le volunteered at Shepherd’s Hope and the Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Additionally, Le has completed two research internships and is a head anatomy teaching assistant and a quantitative biological methods teaching assistant.
While Le has been extremely involved with biomedical sciences in her time at UCF, she also served as a member on the President’s Leadership Council and was a charter member of the UCF Foundation’s first Student Philanthropy Council.
Le said her diverse involvement is what qualified her for the honor.
“Yes, it validates everything I've done in the past four years. But above all, this award made me reflect upon what UCF means to me,” Le said. “It proved to me that I made the absolute best decision four years ago when I chose to attend UCF.”
Rosie Reitze is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @rosie_ucf or email her at RosieR@centralfloridafuture.com.