Katy Abel
MA Department of Higher Education
617-994-6932 (office)
617-981-2344 (cell)

For Immediate Release
May 9, 2016

“29 Who Shine” Awards Kick Off 2016 Commencement Season

Governor Baker, Education Leaders, Media Publishers Honor Community College, State University & UMass Graduates for “Contributions to the Commonwealth”

Boston, MA - May 9, 2016 – The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education today announced the Class of 2016 winners of the 29 Who Shine awards, the Commonwealth’s annual ceremony honoring one graduate from each community college, state university and University of Massachusetts campus. The awards highlight students’ individual achievements and contributions of the civic and economic well-being of the Commonwealth, resulting from their collective efforts and public investment in their education.

Today’s ceremony, taking place at 12 noon at the Massachusetts State House, will be attended by Governor Baker, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Education Secretary Jim Peyser, UMass President Marty Meehan, chancellors, state university and community college presidents, students and family members. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy 7th Company Marching Band will also perform at the ceremony.

Student profiles and head shots are available now on the Department of Higher Education web site.

Each one of Massachusetts’ 29 public college and university campuses selected its own honoree for the 29 Who Shine awards based on criteria established by the Department of Higher Education. Students are required to be state residents who have strong academic profiles and a record of civic engagement.

"Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and I congratulate all 29 of the 2016 award recipients and thank them for their substantial contributions to their campuses and local communities," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Each of the 29 Who Shine honorees represent our future citizenry and workforce and have already made a positive impact on the Commonwealth.”

“It’s exciting to see how this exceptional group of student leaders have chosen to put their brainpower and civic engagement to work in so many different ways that benefit our state -- through STEM, through the arts, and through teaching, and medicine,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser. “We wish all of them well in their next steps, whether in their careers or additional scholarly pursuits.”

“Each of these students is a shining example of what our public higher education system can produce,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The outstanding students on this year’s list of 29 Who Shine honorees have come from many countries and overcome many obstacles. I am so proud of what they have achieved and look forward to seeing how they continue to put their talents to work on behalf of us all.”

Among this year’s honorees from public campuses across the state:

Sondos Alnamos, Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, MA: A native of war-torn Syria, Alnamos switched career plans in order to focus on biomedical engineering. She wants to help develop new artificial organs and limbs for civilians injured in war and terrorist attacks. She volunteers at numerous non-profits throughout the city of Boston.

Bella Ballin, Mount Wachusett Community College, Gardner, MA: One year after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Ballin enrolled at “The Mount” as a dual enrollment student, earning an associate degree and a high school diploma simultaneously. A peer tutor in math and chemistry, she has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average while helping other students.

Brendan Heath, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Bourne, MA: Heath helped found the Academy’s cadet-run emergency medical services program serving the campus community. While earning two bachelor’s degrees in Emergency Management and Marine Transportation, he returned home to Southampton, MA on weekends to serve as a volunteer firefighter/EMT basic.

Victoria Chase, Salem State University, Salem MA: While completing her undergraduate degree in three years, Chase represented Amnesty International at campus events to build awareness of the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban. She also  led a voter engagement project in Salem and campaigned in 11 Massachusetts communities in support of public water fluoridation.

Felipe P. Nascimento, UMass Lowell, Lowell, MA: As a 19 year-old college student, Nascimento co-founded a successful tech start-up, Veloxity, which now provided nearly 300 cell phone charging stations to clients worldwide. He is committed to keeping his company in Massachusetts and is now filling computer science, marketing and sales positions.

Waldo Anthony Zamor, UMass Medical School, Worcester, MA: Zamor has led a K-12 public school vaccination effort in Worcester, volunteered in the city’s free medical clinics and helped develop the “Your Skin Is In” campaign to warn high school and college students of the dangers of indoor tanning.

 Each of the 29 Who Shine has named a faculty or staff mentor who provided guidance and support throughout the student’s years in college. These faculty will be honored at a celebratory luncheon sponsored by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, following the awards ceremony.

For the 6th straight year in a row, publishers of most daily newspapers across the state have donated full or half-page advertisements to honor the students. Supporters of the 29 Who Shine Publishers Campaign include The Boston Globe, GateHouse Media New England (all dailies) The Springfield Republican, Lowell Sun, Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise, The Daily (Lynn) Item, Gardner News, and Salem News.

“There is nothing more empowering in life than learning.  The Republican supports the 29 Who Shine initiative in its endeavor to recognize the extraordinary students who are the best and brightest role models from our public colleges and universities," said Mark French, The Republican's advertising director.

More information on the 29 Who Shine Awards is available at



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