Class of ’22 mission award honorees made their mark on campuses

The Vivere ex Missione awards are presented each year to four graduating students whose time at University of Detroit Mercy was marked by leadership, service and scholarship. Nominations are made by students, staff and faculty and the awardees are chosen by a committee of staff and faculty.

“Vivere ex Missione” means “to live the mission” and these students did just that as Detroit Mercy students. Below is the text of the citations each received with their honor:

President Antoine M. Garibaldi presents Semaj Shelton, Jr. with the Vivere ex Missione award during commencement.Semaj Shelton, Jr., Undergraduate student

Ask almost anyone on the McNichols Campus if they have heard of Semaj Shelton, chances are they will say yes. He is an academically-talented student-athlete and an active volunteer.

On and off the track, where he is a strong sprinter, Semaj is a humble servant leader. As a ReBUILDetroit scholar and Biology major, he has served as a research assistant for four years. He also became a teaching assistant, a position he uses to help younger students transition into college, showing them by example how to give and be their best.

Semaj did not let early academic struggles get him down. Instead, he dug deep and drew upon resources to turn his performance around. He uses those skills and his story to inspire those he tutors through ReBUILDetroit and at Loyola High School Detroit.

A tireless volunteer, he can be seen in a leadership role in service-learning and through his work with a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with autism. He includes everyone in his very large, culturally diverse circle. Everyone he meets is already a friend.

It is for his inspirational leadership, welcoming presence and servant leadership that University of Detroit Mercy presents the 2022 Vivere ex Missione award to Semaj Shelton.

President Antoine M. Garibaldi presents Taylor Lynn Kile with the Vivere ex Missione award during commencement.Taylor Lynn Kile, Graduate student

Some students have a way of making their mark on everything they touch. Taylor Kile is that kind of student.

Taylor has not only earned a Master of Architecture degree; she is earning a second master’s degree in civil engineering management.  She also has a minor in leadership, is co-vice president of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students and holds a board position on the American Institute of Architecture Student Chapter.

She is a fierce advocate for equitable housing and community building. Inspired by a trip to Cuba, Taylor’s thesis focused on how tourists can help build up communities in developing countries. In the summers, she has helped run an architecture summer camp where high school and college students come to campus to learn about architecture.

Taylor has worked as a work-study student in several areas of the School of Architecture & Community Development, as an orientation leader and in TRIO Student Support Services helping first-generation students like herself succeed. As an employee of the Office of Financial Aid, Taylor took on the duties of stocking the student food pantry outside the office, making sure it was fully stocked, often donating items herself.

Taylor also served as cheerleading captain and as the cheer team’s representative on the student-athlete advisory committee. She was a mentor to many of her teammates, introduced girls to cheer skills during Women in Sports Day activities and ran Halloween candy drives for children with cancer.

For her academic skills and tireless work in service of others, University of Detroit Mercy presents Taylor Kile with the 2022 Vivere ex Missione Award for Graduate Students.

President Antoine M. Garibaldi presents Fatmeh T. Cheaib with the Vivere ex Missione award during commencement.Fatmeh T. Cheaib, School of Law

Students often come to Detroit Mercy Law with a cause and a passion. For Fatmeh Cheaib, that cause is also a critical concern of the Sisters of Mercy, namely immigration.

Fatmeh’s passion for this important issue drives her service work. As a board member of the Immigration Law Association, she planned programs and activities advocating for fair and reasonable immigration laws and hosted a debate on DACA to shed light on the issue. Through her leadership of the Arab American Law Student Association, the group held an event showcasing immigrant students and their stories; developed a statement calling for justice in policing in support of the Black Lives Matter movement; raised funds for victims of crises in Lebanon and Iraq; registered voters; and provided two scholarships to minority students.

She was a strong student voice on Detroit Mercy Law’s Diversity and Inclusion committee and works to diversify hiring at the law firm where she works. She has published research on the Fourth Amendment and dedicated her Law Review to ending dehumanizing rhetoric toward immigrants. Additionally, Fatmeh has the respect of peers, staff and faculty and is an impressive speaker to external audiences.

For her dedication and service to important, ongoing human rights issues, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law is proud to present the 2022 Vivere ex Missione Award to Fatmeh Cheaib.

President Antoine M. Garibaldi presents Ellese Serena Blackmon with the Vivere ex Missione award during commencement.Ellese Serena Blackmon, School of Dentistry

Ellese Blackmon is a leader forged by the heat of adversity.

She was raised in a home stained by mental illness and addiction and had to assume a parental role to create stability in the family. Guided by a maturity beyond her years, she was successful in having her younger siblings removed from the family home and placed in safer homes.

While attending University of Detroit Mercy, Ellese has made her mark as a servant leader by raising funds and materials for many oral-health related organizations, enhancing local oral health literacy, assisting with the student-led Malta Dental and Medical Clinic, and working to increase the number of dental hygiene students at community and nonprofit dental clinics. She is driven in this cause by a deep understanding of the social disparities that combine to limit access to proper oral healthcare.

With unfailing positivity, Ellese brings Mercy and Jesuit values to the way she treats and cares for patients. To her fellow students, especially those going through hard times, she has become a support system.

Ellese plans to earn her Master of Science in Dental Hygiene and continue to partner with her husband to provide a safe and loving home for her daughter. It is in honor of her courage, strength and respect for each person’s story regardless of what their journey has been, that the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry presents the Vivere ex Missione Award to Ellese Blackmon.