Kate Johnson says growing up in Nebraska, with its culture of kindness, helped form her into the thoughtful and caring person she is today. She also credits her parents for setting an example of gracious behavior—all qualities that likely factored into her being named a Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois last fall. The prestigious Lincoln Laureate award is given annually to one student, nominated by their professors, from each of the four-year colleges and universities in Illinois.

“As an out-of-state student, I never imagined receiving an award given to honor the students of Illinois,” Johnson says. “I am blessed to have been able to come to a school in a new state and know that my impact has been seen and appreciated.”

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Kate Johnson (center) with officers of the Lincoln Academy in Springfield, IL

The Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Awards are bestowed upon students based on their leadership abilities and desire to make a difference in the world through civic engagement, both on campus and beyond. Johnson attended the ceremony in Springfield in November where she received a certificate signed by the governor, an educational stipend, a Lincoln medallion and a tour of the Illinois Supreme Court building.

She says she felt honored to meet students from all the different universities and to see what it meant to represent Concordia-Chicago to the state of Illinois. “I was so eternally grateful because of what the award represented. To know that I am believed to be a person of good merit. To know that others saw the work I put in to contribute to Concordia University Chicago as a friend, classmate and teammate,” she says.

Johnson has played on the Cougar women’s lacrosse team since her freshman year. She reflects, “I had previously never played a day of lacrosse prior to my arrival at CUC, but through the wealth of opportunities on campus I was able to learn and share the same love for the game that my teammates and coaches have. The women on the team … have become like family to me.”

She has also served on the executive board of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), an experience that has helped her make a positive impact by establishing communication between athletes, administration, and other areas and clubs on campus. After she graduates in May with her bachelor’s in sports management, Johnson plans to pursue a master’s degree in sports psychology—she hopes to expand her potential as she works to serve and advocate for athletes.

“People here made me feel like I belonged when I arrived here four years ago,” Johnson says. “What I have enjoyed most about my experience has been the opportunity to make connections and experiences with people of different backgrounds and cultures. I am proud to say Concordia University Chicago is my home.”