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2023 Student Commencement Award Winners Named

Romone Reeves and Maria Falanga with honorary degree recipient William Fichtner, Board Member Tim Rider, President Matthew Giordano, and Founder’s Award Winner Russ Salvatore.

Villa Maria’s Commencement ceremony took place on May 20, 2023.

In keeping with Villa Maria’s tradition, two graduates were recognized as the winners of the annual graduation awards, the Blessed Mary Angela Student Award and the Spirit Award. This year’s winners were Maria Francesca Falanga and Romone Reeves, respectively.

Named after the foundress of the Felician Sisters, the Blessed Mary Angela Student Award is awarded annually at Commencement to the most outstanding graduate of Villa Maria College. The award is selected by the President of the college and his cabinet, based on nominations from faculty and staff. Recipients embody the mission and values of Villa Maria College, demonstrated through outstanding achievement in academics, leadership, and service to both the college and local community

Maria started her journey at Villa at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She made the most of the unprecedented situation by virtually attending classes from her home in Torre Del Greco, Italy.

When campus re-opened, Maria, who is one of three triplets, traveled across the world to learn more about the American culture while pursuing her dream of playing college basketball. She immersed herself in campus life and excelled in many areas.

Today, Maria graduates with a 4.00 GPA, a spot on the Dean’s List for each semester in which she was a student, and a member of the national scholastic honor society Delta Epsilon Sigma. Her academic achievements were recognized widely, earning her the Outstanding Student in Fine Art award as determined by Villa’s faculty.

Outside of the classroom, Maria was a guard on the women’s basketball team. The College’s athletic staff named her the Athlete of the Year after the 2021-2022 season, the Student-Athlete of the Month in January 2022, and the team captain for the 2022-2023 season. Because of her excellent academic record, Maria earned a spot on the USCAA’s All-Academic Team, which recognizes students who have a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 (on a 4.00 point system) or greater.

Throughout her time at Villa, Maria served the College community in many ways. She assisted many of her classmates as a peer mentor and tutor while sharing Villa with new students as both an orientation leader and a student ambassador. She served the Western New York community as a volunteer at Compass House and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy. She did all of this while holding down two jobs: one in the Commons and one in Campus Ministry.

Last year, Maria graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Art. Today, she graduates from the College for a second time, with an Associate in Applied Science in Business Administration. Upon her return to Italy, Maria plans to continue playing basketball while working towards opening a small business that allows her to continue painting.

The Spirit Award is given annually by the Student Life Office to a graduate who has distinguished himself or herself in promoting spirit on campus.

Romone has been an active member of the Villa Maria College Community since he first stepped foot on campus. An accomplished filmmaking student, Romone earned a spot on the Dean’s List during 3 different semesters. He is also a member of the National Society for Leadership and Success, the country’s largest leadership honor society.

As an active member of Campus Ministry, Romone has demonstrated his willingness to live out the College’s mission. He was the recipient of the Campus Ministry Mission & Service Scholarship for two consecutive years in both 2021 and 2022.

As the Film Club’s vice president and a peer tutor in writing, Romone has proven himself to be a trusted leader among his classmates. Furthermore, he worked with incoming freshmen at the College’s Summer Bridge Program during its inaugural year and assisted new and current students through his work with the Admissions and Student Life Offices. Because of his experience, College faculty selected Romone to represent the student body by moderating a panel with actor, director, and producer Addison Henderson during VillaCon 2023.

Off campus, Romone gained professional filmmaking experience by working at the Western New York Invention Convention as a film crew member. While there, Romone put into practice everything he’s learned throughout his time at Villa. He successfully operated film production cameras, controlled shot framing and camera movements, and managed the event’s live stream.

Romone graduates today with a Bachelor of Art in Digital Filmmaking. He also completed Villa Maria’s On-Set Grip and Electric certificate program in February 2023. Romone is planning to attend graduate school to continue his film studies.

Maria, Romone, President Giordano, and Tim Rider