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Married grads boost Co-op students with $1,000 Emerging Leaders Award

‘We hope to empower students to live their lives with purpose’
May 21, 2020
By Molly Hamilton

“We are both passionate about education, student development and experiential learning,” says Christina Christou.

When Christina Christou, BComm 15, and David Colasurdo, BComm 12, started the Emerging Leaders Award for Undergraduate Co-op Students in 2017, little did they know how important it would become in the age of COVID-19.

“Graduation doesn’t feel real because we didn’t get our iron rings and we don’t know what’s happening with convocation,” says Cynthia Ferullo, BEng 20, the 2020 recipient of the $1,000 prize. “Receiving this award at this moment is some recognition that I’m done and I was able to do some really cool things. It’s also put my mind at ease since I can’t work right now.”

The Emerging Leaders Award is presented at the annual Co-op Awards of Recognition Event (CARE) and Student Showcase. It recognizes a Co-op student in their final year who has either completed or registered for a third work term, has demonstrated strong leadership skills and has had a profound impact beyond the classroom.

‘Mentorship when it’s really needed’

Cynthia Ferullo, BEng 20, is this year’s recipient of the Emerging Leaders Award

Since 2017, the award has helped and supported three Co-op students who have gone on to rewarding careers.

“Not only did David and Christina provide me with the scholarship, they have gone above and beyond to give me guidance,” says Christopher Gallo, BEng 19, a systems integrator for Airbus who received the award in 2018. “They recently sent me a letter just to keep my spirits up during these special times. They are really the sweetest couple.”

Similar sentiments are echoed by Emma Alguire, BComm 18, the 2017 recipient, and Anthony Fiorito, BEng 19, who received the award in 2019.

“I feel like I’ve gained this really wise advisor in my personal and professional life who I can lean on if I need to,” says Alguire, who recently took a position at the consulting firm Mercer.

Fiorito, a software engineer for Visa in Austin, Texas, says that “the monetary compensation was helpful” in helping him relocate to the United States.

“The immense support and guidance from David and Christina made the decision of moving to a new country less overwhelming,” he adds.

The Emerging Leaders Award offers a lot more than mere financial support, however. Christou and Colasurdo recently partnered with Roger Duguay, a managing partner at executive search firm Boyden, to offer award recipients advice on career development, personal branding and leading with impact.

“It enters the students’ lives at a critical point,” says Colasurdo, an investment advisor at BMO Nesbit Burns. “It’s mentorship when it’s really needed. We just want to be there at that crucial moment where we can provide a little bit of financial, emotional and professional support.”

Even before creating the award and meeting Colasurdo, Christou was a strong believer in mentorship.

As a student, she co-founded the Co-op to Industry Mentorship program (C21) with Leslie Hughes, coordinator of the Co-op’s mentorship and volunteer programs. The program pairs senior Co-op students with an alumnus to help with the transition into the workforce.

‘We hope this award inspires others’

Christou met Colasurdo while on a work term at RBC. The couple bonded over their mutual interests and shared values, fell in love and married three years later.

“We’re both passionate about supporting education and experiential learning,” says Christou. “We hope this award inspires others to give back to Concordia.”

The couple has big plans to grow the award, too, says Colasurdo.

“We want to be able finance it to the point where we can bring in speakers and global leaders from various industries.”

No matter how the award develops over the next five to ten years, Christou and Colasurdo are committed to supporting the next generation of leaders.

“We hope to continue to empower students to live their lives with purpose, meaning and to lead with kindness and compassion,” says Christou. “We hope that our discussions inspire all award recipients to be the greatest versions of themselves.”


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