Sometimes learning involves taking risks, and Helaina Polito has discovered that some of her more memorable student experiences stem from choosing a more difficult path.

One experience that stands out for Polito, who recently received a student leadership award, was a winter break trip to Florida, where she and fellow Suffolk students had the opportunity to swim with manatees as part of the University’s Journey leadership program.

“Swimming with the manatees was an absolutely incredible experience that I will never forget,” says Polito.

“At first I was nervous to get into the water with the manatees, but one thing I’ve learned through my involvement at Suffolk is that’s it’s important to step out of your comfort zone. Those are the times when you learn the most about yourself and about others around you.”

"A reliable leader"

Polito received the Ken M. Bedini Student Leader Award at the National Association for Campus Activities Northeast Regional Conference in Hartford, Connecticut. The University received a second award for a poster promoting campus activities.

“I was honored that my work as a leader on campus was recognized,” says Polito, a senior psychology major. The award included a financial scholarship.

“Helaina has grown so much because of her involvement at Suffolk and has become such a reliable leader on campus,” says Meghan Kenney, associate director of Student Leadership & Involvement. “She is a role model to other students and most deserving of this award.”

Creating campus opportunities

Polito has active not only in the four-year, comprehensive Journey program, but also as president of the Program Council, which sponsors more than 40 educational, cultural and social events on campus each year.

She also has an internship at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, the oldest child mental health organization in New England.

In encouraging students to get involved on campus, Polito says: “It’s a great way to meet new people and enjoy fun experiences. You can also gain leadership skills that we all need after we graduate and begin our careers.”

Polito plans to attend graduate school with aim of becoming a school psychologist at the elementary level.

“I want to work with children and make a difference in their lives,” she says.

"Best Poster" award

The National Association for Campus Activities also recognized the Program Council with a “Best Poster” award at the conference. The winning poster used a Boston MBTA theme in suggesting that students should take some time and make a short trip to attend fun campus events.

The National Association for Campus Activities Student Leader Awards were established to recognize the outstanding contributions of undergraduate student leaders who make a difference in their institutions.