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University News | Faculty/Student Awards

Oak Grove and High Ridge Students Attending UCM Receive Prestigious Charno Awards Celebrating Their Accomplishments

By Jeff Murphy, April 16, 2024


Kristen De Napoli, left, a recent University of Central Missouri alumna from Oak Grove, Missouri, and Ashlee Bieker, a senior from High Ridge, Missouri, are 2024 Charno Award recipients at UCM.

WARRENSBURG, MO – Qualities that included outstanding academic achievements and service to the University of Central Missouri community contributed to the selection of two individuals who received the most prestigious honor presented to UCM students, the Charno Award. The award recipients were announced on April 11 during the 84th annual Who’s Who recognition ceremony conducted in the Elliott Student Union.

The Charno Award is presented annually to the top citizens at UCM. It honors George Charno, Sr., a Kansas City attorney who established the award in 1940, followed by a second award in 1941, to recognize the two outstanding members of the senior class. Selection is based on a combination of criteria which include: leadership, scholarship, character, involvement in campus organizations and extracurricular activities, service to the university, and involvement in one’s academic department. Awards were announced by Shari Bax, Ph.D., vice president of Student Experience and Engagement, and presented by Roger Best, Ph.D., university president.

The 2024 recipients are Ashlee Bieker, a senior from High Ridge, Missouri, who is seeking a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education –  Early Childhood, and Kristen De Napoli, a student from Oak Grove, Missouri, who graduated in December 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education – Early Childhood.

These students were part of a group of 19 individuals who were recognized during the Who’s Who at the University of Central Missouri reception, which annually honors outstanding students from the senior class based on nominations submitted by students, faculty and staff. The selection committee chooses  Charno Award winners from this pool of students who are well-rounded in their university education, and have contributed to UCM in many ways. In addition to being introduced at Who’s Who, Charno winners will be recognized during Spring Commencement exercises planned the weekend of May 3-4 at the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center.

Bieker, has not only excelled in the classroom, but through her volunteerism and leadership activities. Her efforts exemplify UCM’s longstanding motto, “Education for Service.”  

Bieker has served as a UCM Brand Ambassador and Alumni Ambassador, and has been involved in numerous campus organizations. These include the National Society of Leadership and Success, Rho Lambda, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kappa Delta Pi, and Early Childhood Young Professionals. 
She has demonstrated what it means to be a leader by serving as the Vice President of Recruitment and as a Gamma Chi for Panhellenic during the past four years to recruit sorority members. Bieker also has been an active leader within Delta Zeta sorority, serving in roles such as Vice President of New Member Education, Historian Chair, Sisterhood Chair, Accountability Chair, and as a Homecoming candidate. She currently serves as Panhellenic Relations Advisor for Delta Zeta and is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the nation’s largest education honor society.  While maintaining this busy schedule, she has successfully attained a cumulative 3.92 grade point average.

After preparing for an education career at UCM, De Napoli is currently making a difference in children’s lives as a kindergarten teacher in the Odessa School District following her recent graduation.

As a university student, De Napoli was active in campus and community activities, and served in many different organizations which helped her to network with other students and develop organizational skills. This included the Baptist Student Union, Color Guard, and serving as a Community Group Leader at the Christian Campus House. She held several leadership positions including President and Parliamentarian for Early Childhood Young Professionals. She was Public Relations Vice President and Social Chairwoman of Gamma Phi Beta, and Student Representative at Large for the Missouri Association for the Education of the Young Child. During her time with these organizations, De Napoli was involved with several activities that benefitted the university community. 

While immersing herself in the opportunities her higher education experience created, De Napoli remained focused on her academic success. She graduated with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.



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