Written by Gabrielle Little
Executive Vice President Michael Pernal with Latino Distinguished Service Award winners, left to right, William Stover, Luz Burgos and Omar Rodriguez.
Willimantic, CT - Luz Burgos, an Eastern Connecticut State University
residence hall director; William Stover, director of supplemental services for Windham Public Schools; and Eastern student Omar Rodriguez'12 received the University's Latin-American Distinguished Service Awards on April 25 in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library.
The Latin American Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have performed extraordinary service in support of the Latin American community by either developing or contributing to programs or activities that focus on positive development of minority youth and/or foster minority educational opportunities and advancement.
Werner Oyaandel, acting executive director of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRA), delivered the keynote address. He encouraged students to stand up for equal opportunity and justice. "We must provide more mentorship opportunities to our youth and inspire other students to be active in their communities as our leaders being recognized here today," said Oyaandel. "Most importantly we must remain committed to a vibrant pluralistic society which acknowledges the strength of diversity."
Burgos received the award in the faculty/staff category. Burgos oversees approximately 90 residential students. "As a hall director, Luz makes herself available to respond proactively to the needs of her residents. Whether its mediating student crisis and conflict or facilitating educational and community service programs, she has a style of supervision that allows students to learn and discover who they are as individuals," said Women's Center coordinator Starsheemar Byrum. Burgos has served as co-coordinator of the Connecticut Statewide Conference on Latinos in Higher Education. In addition, Burgos is an active member of Sigma Lamda Upsilon, Senoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority (SLU) Inc. SLU is an organization that provides sisterhood and support, while prompting academic achievement, service to the community, leadership and cultural enrichment.
Rodriguez '12, a business administration major from Wethersfield, received the award in the student category. Rodriguez has been able to maintain a GPA of over a 3.0. While finishing up his degree requirements, Rodriguez is serving as the president of Men Achieving Leadership Excellence and Success (MALES). As president, Rodriguez assists in leading 56 male students into academic excellence and community involvement.
Rodriguez has held many leadership roles on campus, serving as an office assistant in the Communications Department, a peer counselor in Career Services, a student representative on the Academic Misconduct Committee, the public relations representative in the Africa Club of Eastern, a member of the entrepreneurship club, and the Campus Activity Board promotions assistant. "I have always found Omar to be courteous, respectful and professional in all interactions with the public including students, faculty, staff and community members, said Dean of Students Walter Diaz.
Stover received the award in the community category. He created and is actively involved in numerous initiatives thatserve the Latino community. Some of these successful initiatives include the Parent Engagement Advisory Team (PEAT) and the Windham Before/After School Task Force, which have provided after-school opportunities for hundreds of Windham schoolchildren and learning opportunities for their parents. In the spring of 2011, Stover helped lead a group of community-minded individuals in the creation of " Community Conversation on Education," a program that helped bring parents, community stakeholders and business individuals together to discuss the resources needed to give every child in Windham a quality education. As a result of this program, Stover provided seven full-time bi-lingual family liaisons for the district. Stover has also collaborated with the United Way to help create and institute the Common Sense Parenting curriculum and program. He lived in Honduras for more than 10 years and uses his first-hand knowledge of the Latino community to bring people together.