SOAR Helps Incoming Students Transition to Eastern

Student orientation counselor (SOC) Tiffany Johnson (middle) guides a group of incoming students through the SOAR program.

SOC Lauryn White works with her SOAR group of incoming students.

Incoming students are getting their first taste of life at Eastern through the Summer Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) program. From June 24–July 12, multiple SOAR sessions have been helping new students transition to college life, informing them of campus services and resources.

During the two-day sessions, students break up into groups and are guided through the SOAR orientation program by student orientation counselors (SOCs). SOCs are student leaders who have served as peer mentors, advisors and resident assistants. They’re well-informed members of the campus community who have the “inside scoop” of life at Eastern.

During SOAR, incoming students tour campus facilities and participate in group sessions. They also attend a presentation by a motivational speaker, stay overnight in a residence hall and dine on campus.

A key part of the SOAR program is informing new students of advising resources and the registration process for classes. SOAR participants meet with academic and student affairs staff and talk about the classes they’d like to take during the semester.

This summer’s SOCs, including head SOCs Kelsey Cunningham and Jaye Mendoza (red shirts), pose for a group photo.

SOAR helps incoming students with the academic as well as social aspects of college life. Past students often attribute many of their friendships and successes to the people they met and the guidance they received during the program.

“I absolutely loved my SOC,” said Kelsey Cunningham, who is serving as a head SOC this summer. “I still talk with her about my future; she continues to provide me guidance.” Jaye Mendoza, another head SOC, added, “My first friends were those I met in my SOAR group. In my new role, I continue to build friendships.” 

Written by Vania Galicia

Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Graduates 1,250 Students at XL Center

Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba

Hartford, CT — Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, told the 1,259 graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement to “Allow yourself the faith to ‘dream ahead’ as you embrace the next chapter in your journey.” Noting that college graduates have greater job security, live longer and have greater social mobility, Malerba told the graduates that they had made “a smart decision” in pursuing their educational dreams.

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 21, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,175 undergraduates and 84 graduate students received their diplomas.

Malerba told the graduates “Your education has just begun, as you have ‘birthed’ a career that will only grow and mature over time.” She also reminded graduates to set aside time for the “keepers of your heart” — family and friends who share life’s challenges. “When you meet others on the path of life, offer a kind word, encourage someone, comfort someone, and celebrate someone’s joy.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. 

Malerba was appointed the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe in August 2010, becoming the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. She previously was chair of the tribal council and executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her leadership roles in the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University and her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

In addition to a distinguished career as a registered nurse and her leadership positions with the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba is also a national advocate of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She serves in a number of national roles, including positions with the Federal Indian Health Services; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the National Institutes of Health.

Other speakers at the Commencement exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Merle Harris, vice-chair of the

President Elsa Núñez

Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

“The most important lesson I hope you have learned at Eastern is the knowledge that our great American democracy is only great because of the involvement and participation of our citizens,” said Núñez. “Being a citizen means debating the issues with your friends and in public forums — wherever you get a chance to voice your opinion. Most importantly, be willing to say no to whatever doesn’t feel right.

“You have learned how to think critically on our campus. You have learned how to ask questions, conduct research and analyze the results.  Do this in your workplace, in your community, and as a citizen of our great country.  I know you can do it . . . and I am counting on you to do so.  We need your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge more than ever.”

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 160 of the state’s 169 towns, with approximately 85 percent of graduates staying in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Michael Theriault (right)

Senior Class President Michael Theriault presented the Senior Class Gift to President Núñez — an annual Class of 2019 scholarship — and thanked his classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. He recalled registering for classes in the early morning hours, “trying to stay silent on the third floor of the library” and Thursday night pancakes. Looking to the future, Theriault said the arena floor was a sea of graduation caps, but “While they may look the same from the outside, the reality is that we all will wear different hats. Some of us will go on to be future educators and make differences in the lives of students. Others will become journalists, historians, psychologists, broadcasters and so much more. No matter what hat you will wear, we will all be Eastern Warriors now and forever.”

In speaking on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, Vice-Chair Merle Harris reminded the audience that “commencement” means “beginning.” She told the graduates they “have gained the skills needed to make wise decisions. . .” and were ready to “make your community, our state, and our nation a better place. I am gratified that I can greet you tonight as you begin the next phase of your life’s journey.”

CSCU President Ojakian also offered remarks. Pointing to the “transformational academic journey you have just completed,” he called the graduates “change agents for the future and the next generation of leaders.” Ojakian went on to say, “Connecticut needs bright, talented individuals to stay here, fill the jobs of the 21st century, purchase homes, and raise their families here in the state. Connecticut needs your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit and your ingenuity. You are the future of Connecticut — and because of that, Connecticut’s future is bright.”

From the colorful Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the piercing sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies reflected Eastern’s longstanding Commencement traditions.

University Senate President Andrew Utterback presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Andrew Hofmann, Tiara Lussier, Austin Stone, Ryan Michaud and Sara Ann Vega sang “America the Beautiful”; senior Shawn Ray Dousis gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Dickson Cunningham was recognized as the 2019 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Written by Ed Osborn

Year-End Student Activity Enriches Campus

Fashion Forward. Photo courtesy of club.
Fashion Forward. Photo courtesy of club.
Fashion Forward. Photo courtesy of club.
Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT). Photo courtesy of club.
Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT). Photo courtesy of club.
Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT). Photo courtesy of club.
Natural Hair Club. Photo courtesy of club.
Natural Hair Club. Photo courtesy of club.
Natural Hair Club. Photo courtesy of club.
Key of She. Photo courtesy of club.

 

The end of the academic year is not only crunch time for final projects and exams, it’s also a busy time when Eastern’s many student organizations host year-end events. April and May have had a plethora of vibrant student activities, ranging from fashion shows to carnivals to Asian festivals. Below are a few of the clubs that are closing spring 2019 with a bang.

Fashion Forward held its annual fashion show on April 13 at Windham High School. The club aims to inform and educate Eastern students about the latest fashion trends.

The Repertory Dance Troupe (RDT) held its spring showcase on April 27 at Windham High School. The showcase featured originally choreographed pieces by club members. The club presented big-group pieces (30 or more people), small group dances (15 people), combos (3–6 people), duets and solos. The styles of dances included lyrical, modern, hip hop, jazz and tap. RDT presents a showcase every semester.

The Natural Hair Club hosted its first hair show on April 28 in the Student Center.  The club empowers and uplifts the natural hair community on campus by organizing events that focus on hair hygiene and maintenance, lifestyle tips, hair styles and hacks, skin care and more. “We recognize the trials and tribulations that come with having natural hair,” writes the club. “We want the Eastern community to take pride in their hair in its natural state. Culturally, everybody’s hair is different. We all should love our hair no matter the roots it comes from.”

The Music Society’s acapella group “Key of She” held its annual concert on April 26 in the Student Center. The club educates students about the different aspects of music and enhances the musical experiences of the Eastern community.

Springfest carnival. Photo courtesy of CAB.
Springfest carnival. Photo courtesy of CAB.
Springfest carnival. Photo courtesy of CAB.
Asian Cultural Society. Photo courtesy of the club.
Asian Cultural Society. Photo courtesy of the club.
Asian Cultural Society. Photo courtesy of the club.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz speaks at the College Democrats' "Political Intelligence" event. Photo courtesy of the club.
College Democrats. Photo Courtesy of the club.
College Democrats. Photo Courtesy of the club.
African Club fashion show. Photo courtesy of club.
African Club fashion show. Photo courtesy of club.

 

The Campus Activity Board (CAB) held its annual carnival and fireworks display on May 4. Featuring a Ferris wheel, scrambler and cotton candy, the carnival wrapped up Springfest, a week of festivities that included a dunk tank, virtual-reality roller coasters and other activities.  

The Asian Cultural Society celebrated “Holi,” a popular Hindu festival in India and Nepal that involves throwing colored powders and water in celebration of the start of spring. Hosted on April 29 on the Webb Lawn, this was the fourth year the club has celebrated the festival on campus.

The College Democrats hosted an event titled “Political Intelligence” in collaboration with the Quiet Corner Democrats on April 27. The event featured nine panels concerning topics such as immigration and gun control. Guests included Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Deputy Secretary of State Scott Bates, Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt, Senior Advisor of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection James Albis, State Senator Cathy Osten and State Reps. Susan Johnson, Greg Haddad, Mike Winkler, Pat Boyd and Pat Wilson Pheanious.

The African Club hosted a fashion show on April 27. The club promotes interest in the history, development and cultures of Africa, and organizes related service projects and events for the Eastern community.

Written by Michael Rouleau

‘Why,’ not ‘What’: Service Expo Honors Community Partnerships

CCE student leaders and staff at the Service Expo and Awards.

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its annual Service Expo and Awards on April 18. The event showcased the numerous service projects being spearheaded by Eastern students in the Windham community and featured a keynote address by Ryan Matthews, director of community programs for Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and executive director of the Susie Foundation. The event concluded with an award ceremony for outstanding projects and individuals.

Hundreds of Eastern students volunteer thousands of hours in the Windham area every academic year. At the expo, student leaders staffed posters describing more than 50 community programs spanning a variety of causes — working with children in afterschool programs, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, assisting the elderly at a rehabilitation center and more. Judges perused the displays, questioning students and ranking the projects according to different criteria.

Jenna Petitti volunteers at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), helping to lead all-recovery meetings. “Working with an adult population is totally different from what I’m used to,” said Petitti, who majors in secondary education. “It’s been an amazing experience. We form connections with the guests that are there, which gives us a new perspective on their part, as well as for them on our part. It’s a great way to break down barriers and stigmas between the two groups. We’re like one big family.”

 

Katelyn Root and Ryan McCarthy led a community-based project on problem gambling. “Problem gambling is something that’s not obvious,” explained Root, comparing it to other types of addictions that have physical symptoms. “Lower-income areas with less resources are heavily affected by gambling because they’re targeted by advertising. They want to trick you into thinking you’ll be the next big winner. A lot of people don’t realize this; it’s important to make the community aware.”

McCarthy focused on sports gambling—a topic he’s drawn to for personal reasons. “I know a former student who gambled his tuition money away, thinking he’d be able to double or triple it. He ended up dropping out,” said McCarthy. “And I have another friend with a gambling addiction. This project has helped me cope because if I can help someone… I don’t want to see them go through what I’ve witnessed two of my friends go through.”

Jessica Saffiotti volunteers with the Sweeny Girl’s Club, an afterschool program for girls between third and fifth grade that emphasizes self-confidence and self-advocacy. “This program has helped me solidify that I want to be a teacher,” said Saffioti, who’s helped the girls deal with bullying and the stresses of having divorced parents. “It’s helped me realize how important it is to help these girls find themselves, find their voices, stand up for themselves. I never had that growing up, so giving it to them… I’ve seen a big change over the year, in how much more confident they are.”

Rafael Aragon volunteers with the Sweeney Elementary Afterschool Program. During his presentation he explained thermochromic slime. “It changes colors based on temperature,” he said. “It’s like magic to the kids, their eyes glow. Then we have the opportunity to explain it to them, how and why it works. This leaves them with an understanding; there’s science behind it. They realize that they can learn this and do things that are cool and interesting. Actively participating in the world triggers a change in their perspective of education.”

Keynote speaker Ryan Matthews

Keynote speaker Ryan Matthews followed the poster session. He is the director of community programs for Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and executive director of the Susie Foundation, an agency that assists people impacted by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

In regard to determining a career path, Matthews emphasized the importance of identifying the “why,” rather than “what,” that leads to future actions. “My ‘why’ is my mom,” he shared. His mother died of ALS when he was 23. ALS is an immobilizing disease that destroys neurons controlling voluntary muscles.

At the time, Matthews and his father were full-time caretakers for his mother, an emotionally and physically taxing role. He recalled the fateful night when he grew impatient with his ailing mother, who was struggling to communicate something to him. Instead of waiting for her message, “I walked away without saying goodnight, without saying I love you,” he said. The next day, his mother was in a coma, and passed away soon after.

Matthews has used this emotionally draining experience to guide his professional journey. “I’m enormously grateful for that failure. It’s provided me a well of resiliency. It’s that well, that purpose, that ‘why’ which drives my work forward.”

The Susie Foundation, named after his mother Susan, was launched with the goal of directly supporting ALS patients, families and caregivers in Connecticut, while also contributing to the eventual eradication of the disease.

The Outstanding Student of the Year award went to Jocelyn Santiago.
The Rookie of the Year award went to Lexie Mastroianni (left).
A Community Engagement Award went to student Shawn Dousis (middle).
The Service Learning Award went to Professor Terry Lennox (middle).
Community partner Carolyn Stearns (middle) received a Community Engagement Award.
A Community Engagement Award went to Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch (right).
The Outstanding Community Event Award went to CCAR.

 

An award ceremony concluded the event. The Support Our Schools award went to United Way Readers/Natchaug Elementary School; the Best New Program award went to the Women’s Meeting at CCAR; the Broadening Horizons award went to the Puentes Al Futuro/Bridges to the Future program; the Leadership Development award went to the Ashford School Girls Mentoring Program; the Strengthening Communities award went to the CCAR Problem Gambling program; the Putting Liberal Arts Into Action award went to the Windham Technical High School Tutoring Program; the Kids First award went to the Windham Heights After School Program; the Liberal Education Practically Applied award went to the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program; and the Community Choice award went to the United Way Readers/Natchaug Elementary School.

Community Engagement Awards went to student Shawn Dousis; Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch; and community partner Carolyn Stearns. The Service Learning Award went to Professor Terry Lennox for the ACCESS Agency Poster Project. The Outstanding Community Event Award went to CCAR. The Rookie of the Year award went to Lexie Mastroianni and the Outstanding Student of the Year award went to Jocelyn Santiago.

Written by Michael Rouleau and Jordan Corey

Mohegan Tribal Chief Named Eastern’s Commencement Speaker

 Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the Commencement Speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford. Malerba will also receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremonies.

Malerba has achieved an exemplary career in the health care and tribal governance fields. Not only has she served her community with distinction, she has brought national recognition to the State of Connecticut.

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. The position is a lifetime appointment made by the tribe’s council of elders. She previously served as chairwoman of the tribal council and was also executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her work for the Mohegan Tribe, Chief Malerba had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

Chief Malerba has achieved a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services; is a member of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council; serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health; is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee; and serves as a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She also serves as the United South and Eastern Tribes board of directors secretary, and is a member of the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Chief Malerba serves as a trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member for the Harvard University Native American Program and served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 11 years.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s graduation exercises on May 21, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to Malerba, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Contributes 200 Boxes to ‘One Million Acts of Good’

Eastern students and staff stand before 200 boxes full of donated food items.

Eastern Connecticut State University students assembled 200 boxes of nonperishable food items on March 26 as participants of “One Million Acts of Good,” a program sponsored by Ellen DeGeneres and Cheerios. The boxes of granola bars, cereal and other nutritious snacks were donated to community organizations across Willimantic the following day.

Some 50 students stopped by the Student Center Lobby between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to help in the effort, which benefited the local Covenant Soup Kitchen, Access Agency, Salvation Army and seven afterschool programs, as well as Eastern’s on-campus food pantry Shawn’s Cupboard.

Accounting major Alex Rooney took time between classes to fold MATTER boxes.

Eastern’s food service provider, Chartwells, partnered with General Mills, which donated the food items. Eastern was one of 100 Chartwells higher-education clients nationwide that participated in One Million Acts of Good. The lunchbox-sized boxes that students assembled were provided by MATTER, a global nonprofit dedicated to increasing healthy food access to children.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Shackathon Raises Awareness of Homelessness

Members of Habitat for Humanity break down camp after spending the night sleeping in cardboard boxes.

Written by Jordan Corey

A group of Eastern Connecticut State University students slept outdoors in cardboard boxes on Nov. 7-8 for “Shackathon.” The annual Habitat for Humanity event aims to raise awareness of homelessness and support the organization’s mission to alleviate the problem of sub-standard housing.

Club members spent 24 hours outside, weathering the cool night sheltered only by cardboard boxes, tarps and sleeping bags. Surrounding their camp, located in front of Webb Hall, were flyers with statistics about homelessness — a public display for those passing by.

Through the 24-hour period, club members received food and donations from members of the Eastern community. Donations go toward the Windham chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which supports housing construction projects for local community members.

Sophomore Brandon Turley commented on the chilly overnight experience. “I sleep in a comfortable bed every night,” he said. “We could do this in August or September, but it wouldn’t have the same effect.”

Turley added that while many people face homelessness in the Windham community, not all students are attuned to the severity of the issue. “We don’t see it as much on campus,” he said. “It’s eye opening to get a glimpse of what’s going on.”

College Democrats Bring Ned Lamont to Eastern

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont visited Eastern on Oct. 30 for a meet-and-greet organized by the student organization College Democrats. To a large audience in the Student Center Café, Lamont discussed his platform and fielded questions by students. 

Club president Alex Thompson ’20 opened the event by reminding the audience that Eastern is a non-partisan institution that does not endorse any political candidate. The mission of College Democrats is to inform students about the democratic process and to promote intelligent political discourse.

Lamont opened by listing his support for gun-law reform, Obamacare, public transportation and the state’s public university system. He emphasized his goals to retain Connecticut residents and to foster a strong job market for young people entering the workforce.

“There are a lot of great jobs in Connecticut right now,” assured Lamont. “Identify what you want and put your shoulder to the wheel. It’s a great time to be in Connecticut.”

During the Q&A portion of the event, students asked Lamont’s take on the opioid epidemic, renewable energy and support for undocumented students. Lamont answered that Connecticut should be a leader in creative tactics to address opioid abuse; that the state’s Energy Efficiency Fund should be restored; and that he sympathizes with the plight of undocumented families.

Members of College Democrats pose for a photo with Ned Lamont.

One student asked about the government’s role in creating jobs, to which Lamont answered: “The government doesn’t create jobs; it creates an environment where jobs can grow.”

Lamont claims he will foster this environment by enabling a highly skilled and educated workforce and by “bringing all stakeholders to the table, including business and labor, democrats and republicans.”

Another student asked about STEM jobs — science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Lamont agreed that Connecticut’s workforce needs to possess STEM skills, but also that the liberal arts are important.

“We need to learn how to continue learning,” he said of the soft skills developed through the liberal arts. “Your job will change over the course of your career. You need to be able to change with the industry.”

Lamont was brought to campus via the outreach efforts of the College Democrats. “A lot of young people in college assume that politicians don’t care about them,” said club member Demitra Kourtzidis ’19, a political science major and Spanish minor. “This has shown us that when you reach out to them, they’ll follow through, especially if they’re trying to get your votes.”

Another club member, Jackson DeLaney ’21, mentioned that some of the important issues for college-aged people include paying off student debt and getting a good job — better yet, a good job in the state.

A political science major and communication minor, DeLaney is interested in working on political campaigns after college. “It would be great to help elect officials in the state that I grew up in.” 

For the past several months, College Democrats have been canvassing the Eastern campus, encouraging students to vote. “We’ve gone to all the residence halls, all the busy buildings on campus,” said Kourtzidis. “Our goal is to get every Eastern student to turn out and vote.”

Lamont closed with, “It’s said that 80 percent of 80-year-olds vote and 20 percent of 20-year-olds vote. Get out there and vote!”

Students Dispatch Across Windham for ‘Day of Caring’

Eastern and UConn students pose for a group photo at the event’s kickoff at Windham High School.

Written by Raven Dillon

More than 200 students from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut volunteered across Windham on Sept. 28 for the third annual Day of Caring. The event was a collaboration with United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

Students from all background and academic interests volunteered hundreds of hours in 13 locations across Willimantic and the surrounding area. Volunteer sites included the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry (WAIM), CT Railroad Museum, Habitat for Humanity, Willimantic Housing Authority, Horizons and more.

At the Abundant Life Church, overseen by Pastor Tim Tracy, students clad in gloves and smiles disinfected nursery toys. “We love this event,” said Pastor Tracy. “Every year, we get different students, and they all work so hard. Usually we only get three or four students at this site, but this year we have eight, so the numbers are going up every year. It’s amazing.”

Students disinfect nursery toys at Abundant Life Church.

Some of the volunteers heard of the event through professors or residence halls. Others were student leaders involved in club life, such as Eastern’s Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), which had several volunteers at the event. Many more were repeat volunteers from previous Day of Caring events.

Others, like Dilan Mendoza, a psychology major at Eastern, attended for the first time. “I’d definitely do it again next year,” said Mendoza, brushing dirt off his hands. “It’s a great way to give back to the local community, and to get to know other students.”

Mendoza was a part of a small group of students who were planting flowers and weeding dead plants in Jillson Square. Supervised by the Windham Gardening Club, students pruned bushes, raked leaves and planted flowers.

An Eastern student picks up garbage along Main Street.

David Annecchiarico, a music major from Eastern, led a group of students down Main Street, armed with garbage bags and garden tools. They raked and tended to small gardens on both sides of the street and swept sidewalks while collecting discarded trash and litter. This was Annecchiarico’s second year volunteering for Day of Caring; he hopes to return next year.

Aside from outdoor beautification, volunteers worked on projects indoors. Some UConn students sorted through donated school supplies, while others created literacy kits. The literacy kits consisted of a book and reading activity designed to make reading fun for local schoolchildren. These kits will be distributed in the Windham Public Schools.

At the end of the day, students were given lunch and an opportunity to socialize with community leaders and student organizations. Afterwards, they reflected on the importance of volunteering and the work they had accomplished that morning.

Day of Caring is a year-long global program designed by United Way to promote volunteerism. Eastern and UConn students will return next year to continue their dedicated work in the Windham community.