Jill Durso, 2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Award Recipient

I was sitting in the dining hall at school on a Tuesday night when my phone started to ring. It was an unknown number from California, so I figured it had to be HOBY related. After answering, the President and CEO of HOBY, Javier La Fianza, informed me that I had been selected as one of two recipients of the 2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Award. I legitimately started crying.

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award is given out every year to two alumni under the age of 25. Nominations begin in the fall. Alumni are nominated for completing an outstanding project. From all the nominations, up to 25 semifinalists are selected. The semifinalists must make a short video and from there, two honorees are selected. The awards are presented at the annual Albert Schweitzer dinner in New York City.

I was nominated for my work on the Brendan McQuade Memorial Scholarship. Brendan McQuade was my best friend in middle school who unfortunately died right before we were supposed to start 8th grade. At my HOBY seminar, my Leadership Seminar Chair challenged us to go home and make a change in the community. The first thing that popped into my mind was doing something in Brendan’s honor. I then started the Brendan McQuade Memorial Scholarship. In about 7 months I raised over $11,000 for the scholarship ensuring that it will be given out for at least the next 20 years. The first scholarship was given out in May of 2015 and the second one will be given out in May of this year.

I am still at a loss for words. Receiving this award is an incredible honor but I could not have done it alone. Over the past few years, and throughout my entire project, my HOBY family was nothing but supportive and motivating. Without them, I truly do not think I would be where I am today. I cannot begin to thank HOBY enough. I am so excited to attend the dinner next month and represent CT HOBY!