Valparaiso University has announced Erica Patton as its 2012 recipient of the Realizing the Dream award.

Each year, the Realizing the Dream award honors a sophomore who best represents an outstanding first-generation college student. The Independent Colleges of Indiana sponsors this annual $2,000 award.

Patton, a chemistry major, represents Valpo students’ values of leadership, scholarship, and excellence. She is actively involved at Valpo as a logistics coordinator for the Valpo Science Olympiad Invitational, an event preparations volunteer for the Valparaiso Police Department 5K-9 Walk and Run, a criminology club member, and a chemistry laboratory assistant. She also values her education highly, and she is grateful for the opportunities open to her.

“Education has been one of the most important aspects of my life — it allows me to expand my knowledge in whatever I choose and gives me the opportunity to establish a happy and successful life for myself,” Patton said. “By receiving this award, I have found a renewed strength to pursue my dreams no matter how difficult they may seem, because in the end I know that I can achieve any goal that I set for myself.”

Robert Clark, assistant professor of chemistry, taught Patton during her first semester at Valpo and was thrilled to hear that Patton had received this award. Clark said Patton is a humble, dedicated student who truly deserves this award.

“Students like Erica are really the reason why Valpo professors enjoy working with our students so much,” Clark said. “Erica shows tremendous dedication and passion in all that she does — whether excelling in her classes or becoming involved in worthwhile outreach initiatives such as the Science Olympiad competition that she is helping to organize with Valpo math, science, and engineering students.”

Clark’s genuine excitement for Patton’s success as a student points to the valuable personal attention that students receive at Valparaiso University. Valpo students are able to develop close, mentoring relationships with faculty, who take a sincere interest in their students’ success.

The Independent Colleges of Indiana honored Patton along with other recipients of the award at its annual banquet in Indianapolis on Nov. 10.