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Dr. Michelle Colpean Wins Wyoming Citizen of the Year Award

Written by Fiona Pichler, Public Relations Major, University of Cincinnati 2026

One may acquire many titles throughout life. These titles can be related to careers, family status, hobbies, religion, etc. Although many titles are temporal, some carry a great legacy that can outlive the titleholder. 

UC communications professor Dr. Michelle Colpean holds many titles herself. She is a mother, wife, professor, feminist, and civilian of Wyoming, Ohio. On January 31, Michelle was honored as a Wyoming Citizen of the Year at the Pendery Center for the Arts at Wyoming High School. Citizens of the Year, representing a broad range of Wyoming organizations and activities, are chosen from nominations made by members of the Wyoming community. Nominated by her friend and neighbor, Dr. Katie Seither, Michelle ultimately won the award due to her many contributions to the Wyoming community.

In 2022, Dr. Colpean and her husband, Faris Al-Gharaibeh, moved to Wyoming after Al-Gharaibeh landed a fellowship position at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Despite residing in Wyoming for only a few years, Michelle “has left an indelible mark and changed the community for the better,” says Dr. Seither. Michelle is active in community groups such as the Wyoming Joint Women’s Collaborative and the Wyoming Community Foundation. As a board member of the Wyoming Community Foundation, she uses her knowledge of communications to run the Foundation’s social media and create content to support capital improvement projects. In 2022, she moderated a forum for local high school students to ask questions of City Council and School Board members through the Wyoming Inclusion and Neighborhood Diversity Support group.

Michelle’s dedication to the Wyoming community comes from a deeply personal motivation. After Michelle’s newborn son, Sami, unexpectedly passed away in 2021, she and Faris struggled to find a way to memorialize him. Seeking a positive outlet, Michelle, with the help of fellow Wyoming residents, started a fundraiser for a community garden in Sami’s honor. Eventually, people nationwide and beyond began to donate to the fundraiser. Michelle donated extra proceeds to Wyoming’s Village Green Revitalization Project, which benefits the space adjacent to the garden. 

Inspired by the many fundraiser contributors, Michelle began to look forward to celebrating the late Sami’s upcoming birthday. In honor of Sami, Michelle and Faris created cards, each including “#ShineonSami” and a picture of Sami to hand out to neighbors, reminding them to support each other and their communities. Michelle and Faris also provided small seed funds to several local businesses so these establishments could give customers free treats with reminders on Sami’s cards to pay it forward. This practice is now an annual tradition and a way for the community to spread small acts of kindness while honoring Sami’s life. Eventually, more neighbors began to pass out #ShineOnSami cards, which have spread to several countries worldwide.

 As a Wyoming Citizen of the Year, Michelle has spread kindness in her community and worldwide, inspiring small acts of kindness as strangers continue to pay it forward.


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