Laura Carr-Pries and April Klassen are the 2018 recipients of Canadian Mennonite University's (CMU) President's Medal Awards.
CMU President Dr. Cheryl Pauls presented the awards during CMU's 2018 Graduation Exercises on April 21. Carr-Pries and Klassen received the awards in recognition of their qualities of scholarship, leadership, and service.
"Receiving the President's Medal was a huge honour," Carr-Pries says. "It was really special to be recognized."
Carr-Pries, 22, and Klassen, 23, were chosen from a group of 83 graduates.
Originally from Waterloo, ON and a member at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in St. Jacobs, ON, Carr-Pries graduated with a four-year Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies as well as Biblical and Theological Studies.
Receiving the President's Medal was the culmination of an impressive undergraduate career that began in Grade 12 when Carr-Pries was awarded a CMU Leadership Scholarship worth $14,000 over four years.
She immersed herself in community life at the university by serving on CMU Student Council, including a term as Vice-President Advocacy during her final year of study. Carr-Pries also served as a residence assistant during her second year, and led a Bible study group.
Carr-Pries spent the summer after her first year of study working with Mennonite Disaster Service in High River, AB and Detroit, MI, and the next summer interning at Toronto United Mennonite Church and St. Clair O'Connor Community Inc., a non-profit organization in the East York area of Toronto dedicated to helping seniors.
Carr-Pries attends Hope Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, and she was a driving force in the Emerging Voices Initiative, a group formed by CMU students in response to changes happening in Mennonite Church Canada.
She also completed a practicum as a conflict mediator at Hugh John Macdonald School, a junior high school in Winnipeg's inner city.
"Coming to CMU was a way of pursuing the things I really deeply care about in a way that was innovative and creative," she says. "Peace and theology are highly valued in the community I come from, and studying at CMU pushed me to think about those things beyond the (clichés) and church jargon."
Klassen, who grew up in Winnipeg and currently attends Augustine United Church, graduated with a four-year Bachelor of Arts majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies – Community Development.
During her time at CMU, Klassen was a key member of the women's soccer team for five years, serving as co-captain for two of those years. She also led a Bible study group and helped coordinate CMQ, a support group for LGBTQ persons on campus.
Klassen spent four summers during her degree working at Hope Centre Ministries, a non-profit chaplaincy organization that offers programs for adults with disabilities.
She also completed a practicum that saw her walk two nights a week with the Bear Clan Patrol, a group that exists to promote safety in Winnipeg's North End.
Walking with the Bear Clan Patrol gave Klassen new insights into what she was learning in the classroom.
"I came to see my city in a whole new way," she says. "Volunteering with this grassroots, Indigenous-led organization exposed me to what I believe is community development at its finest, and through this experience, I learned a lot about myself, my chosen field of interest, about Winnipeg's North End, and my potential place in that story."
Carr-Pries and Klassen are in the midst of discerning their next steps. Both are considering graduate studies, but for now, they plan to work in Winnipeg.
Carr-Pries hopes to do work that connects her interests in peace education and social justice, and Klassen hopes to continue her involvement in the North End.
"I'm realizing that Winnipeg's inner city is a place I long for and feel called to—not to develop, but simply to live (in)," Klassen says. "My education (at CMU) has shaped me in this way, and set my sights on meaningful, valuable work. For this, I am grateful."
She adds that she faced many challenges during her six years at CMU: she changed her degree program four times and incurred four concussions, three of them sports-related.
"My time at CMU hasn't been easy," Klassen says, "but thanks to this community, the faculty, staff, our donors, students, and of course my graduating class, I leave this place with hope, courage, energy, and excitement for what's to come."
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU's Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at its Shaftesbury Campus and Menno Simons College Campus. CMU is a member of Universities Canada.
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