By Michael P Garrett
The clock was winding down at the end of the first half, but Kansas’ lead slipping away to Texas Tech was the last thing on Natalie Scott’s mind.
Scott along with the nine other Ex.C.E.L. finalists gathered near the sideline just before halftime. They filed onto the field, and the moment she had been waiting for since she heard she was a finalist a few weeks prior had arrived.
After a brief introduction of each candidate, the halftime announcer began to reveal the winners.
“And the female winner of the 2013 Ex.C.E.L. award is…Natalie Scott!”
Just like that, Natalie Scott’s legacy at the University of Kansas transformed from your typical involved student to KU’s version of homecoming queen. As she heard the halftime announcer call her name at the football game, 25,000 spectators at Memorial Stadium now knew her long career as a mover and shaker at KU.
“I wasn’t expecting it so much that I didn’t realize the announcer called my name,” Scott said. “I kept thinking about who was going to win and I never thought it was going to be me.”
The Ex.C.E.L. award recognizes one male senior and one female senior that exude excellence in community, education and leadership. Each year, a panel of judges assembles to select a winner. The judges are representatives from the following organizations, the Student Involvement Leadership Center, SUA, the Homecoming Steering Committee, and the Board of Class Officers.
The panel of judges interviews each Ex.C.E.L. finalist; the finalists consist of five men and five women. After the male and female winner is chosen, both winners plan a leadership retreat called the Blueprints Leadership Conference. At this conference Ex.C.E.L. winners aim to inspire and instruct young KU student leaders.
Scott said the task of planning blueprints seems daunting, but she’s excited to see the process pan out.
“It’s not going to be easy, but there’s nothing wrong with being challenged,” Scott said.
Scott has worked with the male winner of Ex.C.E.L. already in her time at KU.
Senior Bryne Gonzales, also from Topeka, worked as a Hawklink guide during orientation this past summer while Scott served on orientation staff as a coordinator.
Gonzales, who is involved in every campus organization imaginable as well, thinks he and Scott will make a good team when planning Blueprints.
“We both have done so many different things at KU,” Gonzales said. The two of us have different leadership styles and methods, so it will be interesting to see how we put those together to plan Blueprints.”
Gonzales, who has spent much of his efforts developing Alpha Tau Omega fraternity as a re-founding father and vice president, was up against three of his fraternity brothers. Ex.C.E.L. finalists, Esteban Marquez, Danny Sanchez, Preston Barr and Gonzales, are all members and re-founding fathers of Alpha Tau Omega.
Even though Gonzales beat out three of his good college friends, he didn’t feel guilty about winning the award.
“I was fortunate enough to be chosen by the committee but that doesn’t take anything away from what they’ve done,” Gonzales said. “I was so fortunate to win because everyone was so deserving of the award.”
Gonzales attributes winning this award to the mentors, advisors and friends that have guided him thus far through his college career. Winning Ex.C.E.L. isn’t the end of the road for Gonzales though.
“My legacy isn’t over,” Gonzales said. “I still have a lot of things to do with ATO, Blueprints and on campus and I intend to do so.”
Ex.C.E.L. finalists at the homecoming parade Thursday night. Finalists from left to right, Esteban Marquez, Addison Keegan-Harris, Bryne Gonzales, Preston Barr, Jill Wenderott, Alexandra Null, Danny Sanchez, Natalie Scott, Nicole Nunes and Will Dale.
Natalie Scott rides in a corvette during the homecoming parade. Each year Ex.C.E.L. finalists get to ride in a corvette during the parade.
Female winner Natalie Scott (middle left) and male winner Bryne Gonzales (middle right) take a picture with finalists Will Dale (left) and Addison Keegan-Harris (right) before the homecoming parade.