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UNBC names Class of 2019 valedictorians

Emilio Caputo (left) and Raliat Abioye will be the 2019 valedictorians at the University of Northern British Columbia. UNBC Photo
Emilio Caputo (left) and Raliat Abioye will be the 2019 valedictorians at the University of Northern British Columbia. UNBC Photo

Emilio Caputo and Raliat Abioye will be the 2019 valedictorians at the University of Northern British Columbia.

They will each give a brief speech during the Prince George convocation celebrations on May 31 at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre. Their presentations are intended to signify a moment of celebration and respect to all those who have made the journey through classes, papers, projects and exams to the culmination of that hard work, their degree.

Caputo is graduating with his Bachelor of Arts – Honours degree in History with minors in Philosophy and Political Science.

Caputo grew up in McBride, enrolling in UNBC five years ago as a UNBC Scholar as the top student in his high school class. As soon as he stepped foot on campus, it didn’t take him long to make a name for himself as an effective and engaging student leader and a talented historian who cared about bettering UNBC’s community.

He describes his experience at UNBC as one of opportunity, where the opportunities were so numerous he was forced to decline them.

“I’ve travelled internationally, served in student governance, and conducted innovative research all because of the university I chose,” he says. “I often feel like UNBC gave me all the knowledge I most often use in my everyday life.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the social environment at UNBC, where student engagement is exceptional and the faculty and administration are often quite caring. It’s easy to find like-minded individuals who also have a passion for learning and enacting positive change.”

Caputo says the UNBC community, including students, staff, and faculty, are perhaps the most enduring memory he’ll have of UNBC, especially those he met who pushed him to do better and to more every day. He credits them for giving him the support he needed to succeed and helped him when he failed.

Early on in his undergraduate career, joined the Northern Historical Student Society and later served in other capacities at both the university and in the broader community, notably as a Student Senator at UNBC and a trustee on the Prince George Public Library Board. This year he was one of six Research Ambassadors who promoted the undergraduate research opportunities available at UNBC to the university community and high school students.

Upon being named a valedictorian for the Class of 2019, Caputo says, “to be selected by my fellow classmates, to represented them at a ceremony shared by us all, is perhaps one of the most significant forms of recognition.”

“These past five years, I’ve enjoyed committing myself to better the community that gave me so much and I’m happy to see so many others do the same,” he says. “Ultimately I see my role as valedictorian as one which I am offered a chance to celebrate the collective successes of our university and indeed the lives of all who have left their mark upon its halls.

“UNBC has a hard-fought legacy, and I hope to impart that message as valedictorian. That each of us has a profound opportunity to use our experiences here to change the world.”

As for what’s next for Caputo, he’ll be starting as an intern at B.C.’s Legislative Assembly in January 2020 and will consider graduate studies after that.

Caputo will give his valedictorian speech at the College of Arts, Social and Health Sciences Convocation ceremony at 9:30 a.m.

Abioye is graduating with her Bachelor of Science – Honours degree with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

She is from Brampton, Ont. and in the fall of 2015 enrolled at UNBC where she quickly developed her passions in research, mentoring, community service and leadership.

Working under the guidance of Chemistry Professor Dr. Stephen Rader, her research involved RNA splicing and she is a three-time recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – Undergraduate Student Research Award.

Abioye excelled in her studies and besides working as a Teaching Assistant, she became a biology, chemistry and math tutor to help other UNBC students achieve their academic goals, positions that she says allowed her to improve her confidence and gain valuable knowledge.

She credits her professors and her support system for encouraging her to explore the vast array of leadership opportunities and get more involved with the rich UNBC community and beyond.

On campus, she was Vice-President of the Chemistry Club; a Peer Led Team Leader; a Student Life volunteer at Orientation; a member of the Synthetic Biology Club; a Research Ambassador who helped promote the abundance of research opportunities available at UNBC to her peers and high school students; and was one of the founding members of the Afro-Caribbean Student Association.

Off campus, she volunteered at the Crisis Prevention, Intervention and Information Centre where she provided much-needed emotional support to people who suffer from mental illness or suicidal thoughts.

“Not only did I obtain a high quality of education here at UNBC, but I was able to build my resume substantially which is not something many universities offer,” she says. “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the amazing and encouraging faculty here at UNBC.

“I’ll remember the rich community here at UNBC – from the close friends that I’ve made all the way to the never-ending support of the Academic Success Centre and my mentors Saphida Migabo, Jean Bowen and Stephen Rader. Being a part of the community not only connected me to the outstanding people, but also allowed me to build my own family here at UNBC which is something I will always cherish.”

Abioye says being selected as a Class of 2019 valedictorian is an absolute honour to her and the opportunity to remind her peers of the amazing work each and every one has accomplished which has played a key role in getting to the moment that they are able to commemorate.

“It means taking the time to thank those who have played a primary role in supporting us in getting to this moment such as our family and friends, professors, supervisors, mentors and all other faculty,” she says. “It also means paying the respects to the Lheidli T’enneh territory, the owners of the land that we all grew and evolved in.”

Abioye has set her sights on pursuing a career in medicine, but that’s after she completes a Master’s degree in Biochemistry based on the passion for research she developed as an undergraduate student.

Abioye will give her valedictorian speech at the College of Science and Management Convocation ceremony at 2:30 p.m.

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