Claire Geruson, an advocate for students with special needs and a student teacher, graduated from Boston College this month and received its 2013 Finnegan Award.

Jenkintown resident Claire Kelly Geruson graduated with cum laude distinction from Boston College on May 20 and received the college’s top graduation honor.

The Rev. Edward H. Finnegan, S.J., Award, given to the student who best exemplifies the spirit of the college’s motto, “Ever to Excel,” was presented to Geruson from among some 2,200 students of her graduating class.

Geruson is a 2009 graduate of Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown and Ancillae Assumpta Academy in Wyncote. She and her family, including father Greg Geruson and mother Eileen Kelly, were longtime parishioners of St. James in Elkins Park but now belong to Immaculate Conception in Jenkintown. This summer Geruson will join the Sisters of St. Joseph Mission Corps and undertake a one-year volunteer commitment as a special education teacher at St. Anthony of Padua School in Camden, N.J.

Geruson, who majored in elementary education and theology, devoted her four years at Jesuit-run Boston College to the values of justice and community, which were instilled in her at a young age.

Since she was a second-grader at Ancillae Assumpta, Geruson has volunteered at St. Francis Inn in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, providing meals, companionship, food baskets, toiletries and other necessities for the poor and hungry who visit the shelter.

In high school Geruson’s outreach to St. Francis Inn expanded to include two-week stays over the summer. The inn also combats another issue often found hand-in-hand with poverty: loneliness.

“There is not a divide between those serving and those being served,” Geruson said. “I have great relationships not only with the other volunteers and people who work at St. Francis, but also with the guests. It is one of my favorite places in the world.”

Geruson brought her commitment to St. Francis Inn to Boston College.

During her sophomore year, she organized and led eight fellow students on a spring-break service trip to the inn.

Geruson’s sense of justice extends to her focus on the education and socialization of children with special needs. She was greatly influenced by the experience of growing up with her cousin, Erik, who was born with cerebral palsy and is blind and nonverbal.

She has worked in Willow Grove as a home health aide for several children with special needs, volunteered in Abington as a swim coach for Special Olympics and served as a reading buddy for students with severe special needs at Boston College’s Campus School.

While an education student at the college, many of Geruson’s student teaching experiences involved pupils with special needs in and around Boston.

Throughout her years on the Boston College campus, Geruson remained active in her Catholic faith. She was a four-year member of the campus ministry program’s Cura group, a faith-sharing community of students focused on prayer and personal faith development. During her sophomore and junior years Geruson was a Cura leader, running retreats and serving as a peer counselor. This year she helped to oversee the program as a member of the Cura council.

She also has served as a sacristan, lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion during campus liturgies.

Earlier this year, Geruson co-led a two-week Arrupe Immersion trip to El Salvador. The participants visited San Salvador and the rural community of El Ocotillo and learned about issues affecting people in the region such as trade, post-war transition, human rights, health and education.

El Salvador also was the destination for Geruson’s semester abroad during her junior year. Under the aegis of the Casa de la Solidaridad, she completed coursework and conducted volunteer service in a community kitchen and school.