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IWLCA Names 2018 Community Awareness Award Winners

By IWLCA Admin, 05/23/18, 2:00PM EDT


IWLCA Names 2018 Community Awareness Award Winners

Three student-athletes honored 


The IWLCA announced that Eden Epner of Johns Hopkins University, Xena Valenzuela of Georgian Court University and Christina De Cesaris of The Catholic University of America are the 2018 IWLCA Community Awareness Award Winners.  

The Community Awareness Award recognizes those student-athletes who have contributed significantly to their community in a given academic year. These students have given their time and energy to support and develop athlete-community relations and have distinguished themselves from their peers.

Division I

Eden Epner, Johns Hopkins University

Eden Epner a senior for the Blue Jays, volunteers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) at Johns Hopkins Hospital where she works with babies, toddlers, and adolescents with pediatric developmental disabilities and disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and musculoskeletal system. Epner helps her patients minimize the stressors of hospital life and reach therapeutic goals through structured play, psychosocial support, and recreational activities. Epner also spearheaded the planning and JHU’s inaugural One Love Field Day FUNdraiser, helping to raise almost $6,000 for the One Love Foundation and raise awareness regarding relationship violence on the JHU campus.

Epner has been a Positive Coach Alliance (PCA) Ambassador since 2013 and has served on their National Student-Athlete Advisory Board and took on a leadership role in their social media efforts. She is the Women’s Pre-Health Leadership Society (WPHLS) Community Engagement Chair and in that role organized service activities and integrated a new initiative, ACEing Autism tennis sessions. In her role as a volunteer medical scribe for HOPE Community Clinic, Epner was able to serve Houston’s refugee and immigrant community. Additionally, Epner served as the President of JHU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) where she led their community engagement efforts. Epner was named a 2017 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, member of the Big Ten All-Academic Team, the IWLCA Zag Sports Academic Honor Roll, and is a six-time Dean’s List Honoree. She has been inducted to the Chi Alpha Sigma, Alpha Epsilon Delta, and Psi Chi honor societies.

Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Athletics.

Division II

Xena Valenzuela, Georgian Court University

Xena Valenzuela works with PALS Programs, a sleep-away camp for individuals with Downs Syndrome, and volunteers with the Special Olympics where she worked with soccer and basketball athletes. She planned and organized the GCU Trunk or Treat, a Halloween event for elementary school children in the local community. Valenzuela also volunteers at the St. Luke Parish Food Pantry and the Silverwoods Senior Residence.

Valenzuela, a senior, served as a GCU Student-Athlete mentor during the 2017-18 academic year and also volunteered for the Georgian Court Golf Outing. She has volunteered her time to serve as a coach for several local lacrosse organizations including Manalapan Youth Lacrosse, Howell Pals, Middletown HS South Girl’s Lacrosse, and Point Boro High School Girl’s Lacrosse, and during National Girls & Women in Sports Day. On the field, Valenzuela is a three-time All-CACC first-team selection, and the 2018 CACC Defensive Player of the Year. She has been selected to several honor societies, including Phi Eta Sigma, Sigma Zeta, Omicron Delta Kappa, Chi Alpha Sigma, and Pi Mu Epsilon.

Photo courtesy of Georgian Court University Athletics.

Division III

Christina De Cesaris, The Catholic University of America

Junior Christina De Cesaris is the only student-athlete serving as a Leader for the Campus Wide Service Corps at Catholic University. She committed to a year of service and has been actively working to plan, market, and execute weekly service opportunities for her fellow students. Some of the specific events De Cesaris has managed this year include the Resident Life Service Day, Mother Thresa Day of Service, and the MLK Day of Service. She was a leader in a Domestic Immersion Weekend in Camden, NJ last fall, where she led a group of students in several service activities, including cleaning a public park, feeding the homeless, planting trees, and promoting AA/NA service to those in need.

De Cesaris is also a member of the Brookland Outreach Committee, where he helped plan three large hospitality events on the Catholic campus for members of the Brookland Community. Over the course of the academic year, De Cesaris volunteered with several other organizations, including Beacon House, Armed Forces Retirement Home, Bethlehem House, Girls in Action, Ronald McDonald Family Room, So Others Might Eat (SOME), and Justice for Juniors. De Cesaris has been a member of the Landmark Conference Honor Roll and is a four-time Dean’s List honoree. She is also a member of the Psi Chi, and Pi Gamma Mu honor societies.

Photo courtesy of The Catholic University of America Athletics.