Two Students Honored Among SUNY's Most Excellent in 2021

Shown from left to right: Kalief Shack-Mettellus and Keana Lee

SUNY Old Westbury seniors Keana Lee and Kalief Shack-Metellus were recognized as 2021 State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipients, the highest honor bestowed upon students in the System.  

“Keana and Kalief have shown incredible leadership, perseverance, and drive in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, and have overcome obstacles and maintained excellence in service both inside and outside the classroom,” said College President Dr. Timothy E. Sams. “I’m excited their achievements were recognized by SUNY and look forward to the many more achievements both will experience as their lives and careers move forward.”

The SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence acknowledges students who have best demonstrated their integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives, which may include leadership, campus involvement, athletics, career achievement, community service or creative and performing arts. Only 135 students across the State were honored with the achievement this year.

“Our students have sacrificed so much over the last 13 months. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we mark the milestones and celebrate the brilliance, vision, resilience, and community stewardship of SUNY’s best and brightest," said State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras. “It is my great honor to present the Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence to these truly incredible students.”  

Undeterred by the challenges of a once-in-a-generation health crisis, they have all overcome significant odds to pursue their academic passions, become campus and community leaders, help and inspire others, and foster a better world for us all. Congratulations to all the winners, and a heartfelt thank you for making the SUNY system proud."  

Lee, from Bethpage, New York, completed her studies in December 2020 towards her Bachelor of Science in Childhood Special Education with a concentration in mathematics. She was a member of the Honors College, and the Alpha Theta Xi Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society for Education. Lee also served as treasurer and president of the SUNY Old Westbury chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the premier professional association for special educators to advocate for the rights and needs of students with exceptionalities. Additionally, she served as a peer mentor for The Children's Sangha and for the Honors College, earning an Outstanding Service Award for her efforts. In addition to her independent research projects, her community efforts include serving as both the choir director and a Sunday school teacher at the New Apostolic Church.

Shack-Metellus, from Uniondale, New York, graduates this May with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Economics and Law with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. He served as president of the Student Government Association for two terms, taking part on numerous councils and committees on campus. Additionally, he received the 2021 SUNY Student Assembly Student Government Association “President of the Year” award, and the 2021 Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Educational Opportunity Program Student Excellence. Shack-Metellus, who interned for the Nassau County Office of Minority Affairs, was incredibly involved on-campus, and also served as a poll watcher in recent elections across Nassau County.