Northeastern Illinois University has selected Communication, Media and Theatre (CMT) major Javonti Mordican as its 2022 Lincoln Academy Student Laureate. Every fall semester, The Lincoln Academy of Illinois honors one graduating senior from each university in the state who demonstrates leadership and service contributions on campus and beyond, academic success, and extracurricular achievements.
Mordican and other Student Laureates from around the state were honored with a virtual program on Oct. 26. Northeastern President Gloria J. GIbson and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Terry Mena awarded Mordican with a letter and certificate of merit signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Lincoln Academy Student Laureate medallion, a certificate of achievement, a $500 check from The Lincoln Academy, and The Lincoln Academy of Illinois Challenge Coin—a continual reminder to be a leader who inspires and transforms communities through integrity, courage, honesty and empathy. Mordican was also formally recognized for this achievement during Northeastern’s December 2022 Commencement ceremony.
“I feel honored to be named The Lincoln Academy Student Laureate for the 2022 academic year,” Mordican said. “When I got the news, I couldn’t believe it. These recognitions are truly a blessing and a reflection of the hard work, time and commitment that I put into my education. Being first-generation I knew I would need to have to be serious and intentional about obtaining my degree from NEIU. My goal during my time here at NEIU has always been to do well. I’m proud to represent my family and my community in a positive manner.”
Mordican grew up in the North Lawndale community. He came to Northeastern from Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood because of the affordability and proximity to his home. Though he commuted for his first two and a half years at Northeastern, Mordican decided to live in the University's student housing, The Nest, and became a resident assistant (RA). He was also a part of the Student Theatre Council and the Black Caucus, was a First-Year Experience (FYE) Peer Mentor and recently became the charter member of Northeastern’s Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.: Phi Rho chapter. During the 2021-2021 school year, Mordican served on Northeastern's Board of Trustees as the Student Trustee. Outside of Northeastern, Mordican was an intern for the American Medical Association and America Needs You.
“What I enjoy the most about NEIU is the community; there are people from all walks of life, from all parts of the city and beyond,” Mordican said. “I came to NEIU to diversify my friend groups so that I could broaden my outlook on life. Coming from a community where I’m counted out from the jump and coming to NEIU, breaking barriers and proving that anything can be done given the right amount of commitment—that is the true satisfaction.”
Department of CMT Professor and Chair Cyndi Moran said Mordican’s participation in numerous extracurricular activities and academic excellence inspired her to offer his name to the department as a nominee, even though he was never a student in one of her classes.
“When I saw the criteria for the Lincoln Academy Student Laureate Award—leadership, excellence, civic engagement—Javonti immediately came to mind,” Moran said. “He received one of CMT's Distinguished Student Awards last year for his scholarship and his work on the CMT's Stage Center Theatre Council, but his contributions go well beyond the department. Javonti models service and leadership at every level—from FYE peer mentorship and serving as an RA, to serving as the Student Trustee for the NEIU Board.”
Moran said her nomination was solidified based on feedback from other CMT faculty.
“I sent an email to CMT faculty putting Javonti forward as a nominee and asking if there were other suggestions,” Moran said. “Within 10 minutes I had at least five or six faculty writing that they too had instantly thought of nominating Javonti, and each had a good story of his many talents, his excellence in the classroom, his kindness to other students, and his bright future. He brings attention to issues of equity and justice, with good humor and sound reasoning.”
Mordican, who has always had a passion for acting, hopes to pursue a career in the media industry after graduation.
“I’m aware that post-graduation is all about exploration and I’m open to learning more about what I like and what I can best use my skills for.”
He also has some words of wisdom for other first-generation students.
“From one first-generation to another, I would say being in college may be a challenge for you, but understand that at NEIU there are people around who want to help you succeed,” Mordican said. “You might feel like you need to carry this heavy load because you are the first in your family to go to college, but remember your health matters. Don’t burn yourself out trying to do everything by yourself. Know that you can accomplish a lot and you can reach out for support.”