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Celebrating Diversity

The academic achievements of more than 120 African American, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students were celebrated last April for Eastern's third annual Inclusive Excellence Student Award Ceremony. In addition to having GPAs of 3.5 or higher, awards were given for athletic excellence, extracurricular involvement and academic excellence.

Eastern's Annual Cesar Chavez Distinguished Service Awards, presented by the granddaughter (Julie Rodriguez) of the late union organizer, honored three humanitarian-minded people last April. The three honorees were Coast Guard Academy graduate Chris Soto, member of the Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission and founder of the college advising organization Higher Edge; Jonah Sanchez '15, student organizer and president of the Organization for Latin American Students (OLAS); and Edili Lopez, former AmeriCorps VISTA, advisor of OLAS and hall director of the freshman dorm Constitution Hall. "Thank you for carrying the torch and legacy of my grandfather," said Rodriguez, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Three women who work tirelessly to promote women's rights and gender equality were recipients of the Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Awards last March. The student award went to Erika Sanchez '15, a women's and gender studies major; the faculty/staff award went to Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch; and the community award went to Lee Ellen Terry, a retired attorney who serves as chair of the Women and Girls Fund Steering Committee. The ceremony's keynote speaker was Attorney Michelle Cruz, who has worked with numerous crime victims over the course of her 20-year career, most notably as Connecticut's second State Victim Advocate.

Three people whose actions promote the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were recipients of Eastern's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Awards this past February. The recipients were W. Reggie Hales, publisher of the Hartford-based African American newspaper Inquiring News; Anthony Aidoo, professor of mathematics at Eastern; and Jonah Craggett, a resident assistant in Noble Residence Hall. Siobhan Carter-David, professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University, delivered the keynote address, where she encouraged young people to make their voices heard against daily injustices.

Eastern's Concert Ensemble enjoyed a five-day tour of San Juan, Puerto Rico, last March, where it sang at the First Baptist Church in Caguas. The ensemble also toured the National El Yunque Rainforest, visited Old San Juan and experienced local culture.

Author and success coach Mike Iamele came to Eastern last March to tell the story of how he-a self-proclaimed straight man-found love with another man. "This is not something I wanted to be thrust into the spotlight for; I just wanted love," said Iamele. He disregards any labels, and claims to not be "gay" or "bisexual"; he is simply just being himself.

The first Chinese New Year Celebration, hosted by Eastern's Asian Cultural Society, drew a crowd of nearly 100 students, faculty and staff last February. Chinese faculty from Eastern explained the history of the celebration as spectators enjoyed various cultural performances, authentic Chinese cuisine and partook in activities such as calligraphy writing.