Eastern Connecticut State University presented the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award to senior Soely Barros, Indira Petoskey, assistant dean of the School Continuing Education and the Honorable Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper Jr. at a reception on Feb. 27 in the J. Eugene Smith Library.
The awards recognize members of the campus community and community-at-large whose actions demonstrate distinguished service in promoting the ideals of Dr. King, and to further the goals of diversity and social equality.
Actor and poet Billie Jean Young delivered the keynote address. She encouraged the audience to love and demonstrate love through unselfish commitment.
“Love has the capacity to transform humanity,” she said. “Some of the greatest accomplishments in the world have come about through love. Love can conquer hate and bring abomination to its knees.”
She described members of civil rights and social activists as people who demonstrate “love with its working clothes on.”
Young ended her presentation with her own signature poem, “Fear Not to Fall,” the title of her latest book.
As she acknowledged the recipients for their work in relation to Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, Eastern’s President Elsa Núñez said, “Tonight’s award recipients help us highlight Dr. King’s legacy, one that is an enduring message of love, justice and unity – a dream not yet fully realized,” and quoted Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Barros, class of 2013, is working on a double major in Spanish and social work, and has maintained a 4.0 GPA (grade point average) in Spanish and 3.4 GPA in Social Work.
She currently serves as the president of the African Club of Eastern (A.C.E) and volunteers as a bilingual tutor for Eastern’s Dual Initiative Program, where she’s helped incoming students transition to college.
Barros works in the Intercultural Center as the national student coordinator, and volunteers as an intern at the North Windham Elementary School, where she mentors 12 elementary schoolchildren.
Barros cited Dr. King, saying, “‘If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but whatever you do, keep moving.’ That’s what I’ve learned from the people I come across in life.”
“Although I am graduating from Eastern, I will be here in spirit,” she added.
Petoskey serves as Eastern’s coordinator of the National Student Exchange and Study Abroad program.
She also participates in the Hartford Immigrant Advisory Group, and conducts English and English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring sessions.
She also serves the community by conducting clothing and food drives; visits the sick in hospitals, and at their homes; and participates in the Multicultural Think Tank for the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE).
Petowsky said she chooses to love unconditionally in spite of her circumstances. “I overcome worries by trusting God, and I overcome hurts inflicted by others through loving people,” she said.
Petowsky quoted Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “I have decided to stick with love; hate is too great of a burden to bear.”
Also honored was the Honorable Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper Jr., who was nominated to the position of Superior Court Judge in 1997 by Connecticut Gov. John Rowland. On Jan. 5, 2005, Gov. M. Jodi Rell nominated Harper to the Appellate Court. On Feb. 23, 2011, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated Harper for elevation to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
“As I reflect on the significance of this award, I am reminded of Dr. King’s dream and admiration for our nation. I am reminded that we are still chasing the dream,” said Harper.
He concluded his remarks with a quote from Dr. King and said “ ‘It is only in the dark that you can see the stars’ – so, as we continue to search for the stars, we must always keep in mind the works of public service and our obligation to make a difference.”
Eastern Connecticut State University is the state’s public liberal arts university. Eastern serves more than 5,400 students each year on its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. It is the policy of Eastern Connecticut State University to ensure equal access to its events. If you are an individual with a disability and will need accommodations for this event, please contact the Office of University Relations at (860) 465-5735.
Posted February 28, 2013
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