4 Women Honored at Eastern's Annual Ella Grasso Awards
- Eastern student Laurel Cannon won the Student Award at the 2018 ceremony.
- Left to right: Michelle Delaney, interim dean of students; award-winners Laurel Cannon, Donna Mims and Regina Lester-Harriat; Dimitrios Pachis, interim provost; Education Professor Tanya Moorehead; keynote speaker Shelby Brown; and Walter Diaz, interim vi
- Keynote speaker Shelby Brown addresses the crowd.
WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/03/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University's annual Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards ceremony took place on March 28. Those honored included student Laurel Cannon of Ellington; English Professor Maureen McDonnell; and community members Donna Mims and Regina Lester-Harriat, who are leaders of the Pretty Brown Girl Club #85 at Metacomet Elementary School in Bloomfield.
The Student Award went to Laurel Cannon of Ellington, a senior who is double majoring in biology and psychology. Passionate about uplifting women in diverse ways, she founded the Cannon Project, an organization with a mission to educate, empower and support women of color. By promoting academic excellence and healthy lifestyle choices to ensure future success, Cannon hopes that the group can become a beneficial resource for minority women. "I plan to nurture this organization to its full potential," she stated.
Regina Lester-Harriat and Donna Reed Mims received the Community Award for their work with the Pretty Brown Girl Club at Metacomet Elementary School in Bloomfield. The club is a component of the Pretty Brown Girl movement, which is dedicated to empowering girls at a young age.
"It's an honor and it's an obligation to be part of the community," said Lester-Harriat, the school's social worker and supervisor of the Student and Family Assistance Center. She noted that as somebody with a good upbringing, and good teachers to guide her along the way, she feels it is her mission to give something back to the children she works with. "They are so excited because they are a part of something special. It's a blessing to be part of that journey."
The recipient of the Faculty/Staff Award was English Professor Maureen McDonnell, who actively focuses on gender equity, anti-racist work and disability rights as the director of Eastern's women's and gender studies program. She played a major role in establishing Eastern as the only Connecticut public university that grants a degree in women's and gender studies. Unable to attend the ceremony due to a conference, McDonnell pre-recorded a video message expressing her thanks and assuring her dedication to intersectional studies.
The keynote speaker - described by Eastern President Elsa Núñez as a "community activist in the best sense of the word"- was Shelby Brown, managing director of Everyday Democracy, a national organization dedicated to building an equitable, participatory democracy at all levels. She previously served as executive administrator of the Connecticut Office of Governmental Accountability.
Brown called on the audience to consider how a woman from a marginalized group might gain access to certain domains and how her experiences could differ from those of others. "How would she know that her voice matters?" She discussed the experiences of her mother, an "entrepreneur and fashionista" who worked tirelessly in pursuit of her own aspirations and instilled in Brown an understanding of why women are remarkable.
Brown touched on the necessity of assisting those who cannot claim their own voice, something that Everyday Democracy aims to do. "We have all contemplated the question 'How can we do better?'" she asked. "'Who can help us make a difference?'" She emphasized the power of "seeing yourself in the solution" and encouraged everyone to take ownership of public issues.
Written by Jordan Corey
Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut's public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut's 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 26 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 40 majors and 65 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 25th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2018 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded 'Green Campus' status by the Princeton Review eight years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.
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