A nursing student, imminent graduate and native of war-torn Kosovo was named the 2014 Student Volunteer of the Year during the recent 28th Annual Memorial Volunteer Day Awards.
"When I found out that I was the recipient of this award, I was in shock," said Elbonita Kozhani, a fourth-year bachelor of nursing (BN) student at Memorial's School of Nursing. "I was so honoured to have been nominated and to be honest, I didn't even know this award existed until this semester. I feel truly blessed to have been recognized.
The Student Volunteer Bureau (SVB) holds a MUN Volunteer Day ceremony every year, calling it one of its most important recognition events. The volunteer of the year award is presented to a student who has made exceptional contributions to the community of Memorial, locally, provincially, or globally, through their volunteer efforts during the past year.
Reflecting on her time at Memorial, Ms. Kozhani says she stayed pretty focused on her academic and clinical work during her first couple of years in her BN program.
"But I realized that I wanted more out of my university career than just a degree. I wanted a sense of self-fulfillment, to feel like I have made a difference in my community," she said. "And this is why I began to volunteer for any and every opportunity that came my way."
She was a busy volunteer on campus, working at student orientation events, I Love MUNdays, as a Memorial mentor with International Student Advising, and as a Memorial ambassador for special events on and off campus. She also served on various committees such as residence council, and MUNSU.
She earned three VIP awards, a bronze, silver and gold, for her many hours of volunteering, and for completing a number professional and personal development seminars.
"I've only been volunteering for the past couple of years, and now I am more of a leader, a better communicator, more outgoing, and more courageous," said Ms. Kozhani. "Volunteering allows you be part of a community and gives you a sense of belonging.
"St. John's and Memorial have become home for me, since I started volunteering," said Ms. Kozhani, who settled in Halifax with her family after fleeing Kosovo in the 1990s. "I feel like I belong here. I am happier, and I've never felt more alive."