Written by Gabrielle Little
Winners of Eastern Connecticut State University's 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award, left to right, are author and poet Billie Jean Young,; Eastern student Soely Barros; Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harper Jr.; Indira Petoskey, assistant dean of the School Continuing Education; and Eastern President Elsa Núñez.
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 a 3.4 GPA in Social Work, serves as the president of the African Club of Eastern and is also a bilingual tutor for Eastern's Dual College Enrollment Program. Barros also works in the Study Abroad Office in 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," is the assistant dean in the School of Continuing Education, where she oversees international students, global field courses, study abroad, non-credit professional programs and the national student exchange. Her passion for education has been reflected throughout her 16 years in higher education serving as an administrator and faculty member. She mentors and tutors high school and college students, participates in the Hartford Immigrant Advisory Group and serves her community through clothing and food drives and visiting the sick in hospitals and at home. She played an important role in the foundational oversight of the Dual Enrollment Initiative Program, and continues to be a powerful advocate and ally of minority students. 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 it too great of a burden to bare."
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."