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Eastern Presents Community Service Awards

Written by Julianne Bass

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Community Service Awards Recipients after receiving their awards (left to right) Rosie Hernandez, Dr. Nanette Tummers, Kelsey Oleynek, Suzanne Slater, Sarah Bojorquez, Amy Gorman

Willimantic, CT -Amy Gorman, a senior from Rockfall, CT, majoring in social work; Nanette Tummers, associate professor of health and physical education; Helma DeVries, assistant professor of political science; Eastern Rugby Coach Ray Aramini; Willimantic resident Rosie Hernandez; and the student group People Helping People. were honored at the Community Service Awards on April 14 in the Betty R. Tipton Room.

The awards are given to individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of others; apply their knowledge to resolve problems within the community; encourage others to get involved; and demonstrate a social awareness and passion for human, educational and environmental justice.

 Gorman was presented the student community engagement award for her continued commitment as coordinator of Eastern's Annual Day of Giving for the past three years. This event takes place on the day before Thanksgiving every year and feeds hundreds of local community members who would otherwise go without. Gorman also serves as a student orientation counselor; as president of the student club, People Helping People (PHP), and as a coordinator of the Pathways Leadership Program

 Aramini received the community service staff award. For the past 20 years, Aramini has served on the Board of Directors for the Willimantic Covenant Soup Kitchen. Aramini is also the volunteer coach of Eastern's Rugby team, and regularly involves his players in volunteering at the soup kitchen. This past Christmas, Aramini donated a Santa Claus suit and joined his rugby players in soliciting donations on Willimantic's Main Street for food baskets for local residents. Aramini has also coordinated bicycle rides as a way of fundraising for the organization. 

Hernandez, who was presented the community member award, is coordinator of the Willimantic-based ASPIRA program. ASPIRA is dedicated to developing the educational and leadership capacity of Hispanic youth. Hernandez works with Windham Middle School students, helping them learn English, enabling students to become bilingual. Hernandez has also played an integral role in the newly formed mentoring program at the middle school.

            Tummers and DeVries were presented the Service Learning award. Tummers was recognized for her work on The Sisterhood Project, a stress management workshop and mentoring program for local youth that Tummers has coordinated for the past five years. Through her selflessness and concern for the community, she has helped many local at-risk girls realize the school, family and social pressures facing them and find better ways of handling them. 

            DeVries was honored for engaging her students in an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. She arranged for her classes to work with a coalition of local nonprofits, such as the Windham AIDS Program, to rally support for the cause. The campaign hosted numerous events including a rally, march and vigil to raise awareness about the impacts of HIV; a social justice poetry slam; and participation in World AIDS Day.

The student group People Helping People (PHP) was presented the Community Event award for its Pen Pal Program. This program links members of PHP with Natchaug Elementary School students, who then write back and forth to each other. The program was created as a way to help promote better literacy, by helping the elementary students formulate and write down their thoughts. The program also helps Natchaug students realize the opportunities available to them in the future, with their Eastern pen pals serving as role models.

The Community Service Awards take place every year during "National Volunteer Week," and are dedicated to celebrating people in action and recognizing students, faculty and staff, and community members who are committed to helping foster positive change within the Eastern and local community.


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