The non-profit, non-partisan academy recognizes the accomplishments of the state's top college students each fall by presenting a Student Laureate Medallion to one outstanding senior nominated from each of the state's participating four-year, degree-granting universities. Rhinehart, who double-majored in accountancy and finance and minored in community service, said she was "shocked and excited" to be chosen as the voice of the 2009 Laureate class. She gave her speech during an awards ceremony held in the Old State Capitol's House of Representatives chamber, where the namesake of the award, Abraham Lincoln, delivered his famous "house divided" speech in 1858.
The academy honors students for succeeding in both curricular and extracurricular activities. With a 3.67 grade point average, Rhinehart served a one-year term as president of the DePaul Golden Key International Honour Society and is a member of five other honor societies. She also has been a leader in numerous student and community organizations at DePaul. Rhinehart co-founded the DePaul Community Service Association's INSPIRE program, which provides volunteer tutors for Libby Elementary School students; she was a fellow and peer mentor for the university's Student Leadership Institute; a fellow with the Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning; a student government senator and peer mentor; and vice president and community service chair for the National Association of Black Accountants, among other activities.
In her speech, Rhinehart, a resident of
"This is one of the state's highest honors for college students, and to be chosen as the student speaker undersores Charlene’s extraordinary accomplishments," said the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M., DePaul president. "We're very proud of Charlene, who is a shining example of the DePaul community's dedication to academic excellence and service."
John B. Simon, chancellor of the Lincoln Academy and a partner at Jenner & Block, said students like Rhinehart "remind you every year that there is nothing wrong in America."
"These students have exhibited a personal commitment to excel as seen by their remarkable academic accomplishments," said Simon. "But just as important, these students serve as role models to other Illinois students, as well as their own family and friends. With hard-working, dedicated individuals such as these, Illinois and the rest of the nation can look forward to a bright and prosperous future."
Louanner Peters, deputy governor of Illinois, presented the medallions to Rhinehart and her fellow honorees. Each also received a $150 honorarium and a certificate of achievement.