(Laura Devenny, former Sacred Heart High School student and Stittsville resident, will be honoured on June 17, 2023 when she receives the most prestigious Queen’s University award, the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award, from the Office of the Rector in Kingston, Ontario. Photo: submitted)
One of the most prestigious student awards at Queen’s University is the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award. The award is given annually by the Office of the Rector to students “for valued and distinguished service, leadership, character, and community impact.”
This year, Queen’s announced four winners of the highly regarded award, one of whom was Laura Devenny, a graduate of Sacred Heart High School in Stittsville. Laura is now at Queen’s studying Political Science and making an impact not only in her program but around the community of Queen’s University.
There are many different Political Science courses across Canada, but Laura says, “Queen’s stood out to me amongst all other universities because of the campus community. Queen’s is renowned for its school spirit and traditions. From orientation week to the wide selection of clubs and classes you could take drew me to Kingston and Queen’s – and I can say I made the right choice!” At Queen’s, in your first year, you are an undeclared major, but what drew Laura to Political Science was her “interest in the functions of government, and how policies work behind the scenes that affect our everyday lives.”
Laura uses her knowledge of Political Science and newfound passion for the functions of government and policies to be an active member of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) at Queen’s. She shares that, “Out of my five years at Queen’s, I have worked for AMS at Queen’s for four of them. It’s the oldest student government in Canada, providing hundreds of student and volunteering jobs on campus. It’s not often that an organization within a school can offer you part-time and full-time, management jobs during your undergraduate career!”
Over her four years with the AMS, most of Laura’s work has been done in the field of government elections and policy, but this year she is the head of the board of directors which means she gets to use her experience in strategic and financial planning to help younger student leaders. “I’ve loved being part of many student experiences at Queen’s, from helping candidates run for our many elections, making fee referenda more accessible, or creating and advocating for new student-facing policies.”
It’s no question AMS has been a large part of Laura’s Queen’s experience, having been a member for over four years, but she says, “If I had to pick a specific favourite memory with the AMS, it was when we went from a one-candidate to a six-candidate election after redesigning the process – it showed that our work really paid off.” The fact that her favourite memory with the AMS was the growth as a result of the group’s hard work really lets you know what kind of person Laura is. She constantly demonstrates that she is a team player and is incredibly selfless and humble.
When asked about how she felt about winning the Tricolour Award, Laura said, “Nothing I have accomplished here has been just by myself alone. I am incredibly grateful to have learned from some amazing leaders, faculty members, and staff at Queen’s. It was that support and leadership that encouraged me to keep serving, even when times were difficult, especially when student engagement was at an all-time low during the pandemic.”
When she first received the news that she had won the award, Laura says she couldn’t believe it. “I was also shown a few letters of nomination my peers wrote for me, and I was pretty taken by it. So many great memories that had flown by I was able to relive and reflect on while reading those letters. I am one lucky student – if anything, this is more motivation to continue giving back and volunteering within my communities.”
The recipients of the Tricolour Award are decided based on service, leadership, character and community impact. When asked what motivates her to act upon these qualities, Laura shared that in her second year she “found a volunteering job within elections, just a few hours a week. Something really clicked for me there – I found a great group of passionate students and began to understand what it meant to be an empathic leader in the community. My service within the university brought me such joy (more so than academics…), especially being able to mentor others.”
Through her work with the school, Laura also “found a passion in assisting others to learn more about our student government processes at Queen’s and building a lasting foundation so that others who may want to pursue these opportunities are engaged and have an accessible path to do so.” On the side, she was also a women’s hockey referee in the community, which also allowed her to see a completely different side of Kingston. It is no question that Laura was more than qualified to win this award with all the different ways she has impacted her community and shown strong character, leadership, and service.
Laura’s dedication to the community is certainly something that will affect her future as she says, “I would absolutely love to come back to Queen’s in the future and continue to give back, the alumni network here is very strong! I don’t think I will be able to stay away from Kingston for too long either.”
Laura will be in Kingston for the remainder of the school year and at least on June 17, when this year’s recipients will be officially inducted into the Tricolour Society during a ceremony. However, she is “heading back to Stittsville for a little bit and then making a move to Toronto in the fall to start a fantastic new consulting job.” The future is definitely bright for Laura Devenny if her time at Queen’s is anything to judge by. With the strong character she built in Kingston, there is no question that she will continue to do great things in Stittsville, Toronto, or wherever else life brings her.
Ever a courteous person, Laura also gives a nod to her former high school, saying, “I’d like to think my time at Sacred Heart helped to prepare me for this future. I’m fortunate to have had lots of great mentors at the school, like Mrs. Forward, Mr. Morden, Principal Hopkins and many more. If I had any advice for students just about to start university, college or going out into the work world, it would be to try everything you can! It may lead to some great things. I sure didn’t expect the path I took while at Queen’s but it was all for the best.”
Congratulations to Laura Devenny on the incredible accomplishment of winning the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award and all the other amazing things you have done at Queen’s and for the Kingston community.