Willimantic, CT - 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 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 a member of civil rights and social activist, people who demonstrated "love with its working clothes on." Young ended her presentation with her self-written signature poem, "Fear Not to Fall," the title of her latest book.
"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," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez, as she acknowledged the recipients for their work in relation to Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy. "King said; 'Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.'"
Barros '13, a double major in Spanish and social work carrying a 4.0 GPA in Spanish and 3.4 GPA in Social Work, currently serves as the president of the African Club of Eastern (A.C.E). Barros also serves as a bilingual tutor for Eastern's Dual Initiative Program, where she helped incoming students transition to college. Barros works in the the Study Abroad office under the School of Continuing Education, and volunteers as an intern at the North Windham Elementary School, where she mentors 12 elementary schoolchildren. Barros cited Dr. King, "'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."
Petoskey, affectionately known as "Dr. P," oversee international students, global field courses, non-credit professional programs, along with national student exchange and study abroad. She also participates in the Hartford Immigrant Advisory Group, and conducts English and English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring sessions. She also volunteers with her church to serve the community by conducting clothing and food drives; visits the sick in hospitals and intheir homes; and participates in the Multicultural Think Tank for the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE). Petoskey 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 quoted Martin Luther King Jr. saying, "I have decided to stick with love; hate is too great of a burden to bear."
The Honorable Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper Jr. was nominated to the position of Superior Court Judge in 1997 by Governor John Rowland. On Jan. 5, 2005, Governor M. Jodi Rell nominated Harper to the Appellate Court. On Feb. 23, 2011, Governor 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 ended with a quote from Dr. King: "'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."