Spring marks the time for Naugatuck Valley Community College to recognize outstanding achievement by students who have overcome significant challenges. The annual Women’s Tea ceremony is a traditional afternoon tea celebrating women who have overcome adversity and found success at NVCC.
This year’s event honored seventeen female students who are excelling academically despite personal challenges and many of whom are balancing work and raising families while going to school full time.
One of this year’s honorees, Trajada Jackson, a Waterbury-native, began studying at NVCC while she was still in high school, and found the courses fairly simple to keep up with. When she enrolled at the College full-time, she admits that she struggled with the major she had selected for herself and balancing out-of-school obligations, but thanks to the help and counseling of caring and supportive advisors and professors at the College, she is back on track and in the process of exploring what other fields of study and career options are right for her. “I just want to build things and help my community,” Jackson said while admitting that, “this nomination, for me, is surreal.”
Second semester student Taslema Akther, who is enrolled in NVCC’s Workforce Value Achievers Education (W.A.V.E) Program was equally as surprised to receive the nomination from WAVE coordinator, Tracy Mahar. “It’s been a rough year,” said Akther who has had a year full of personal struggles, “and getting the nomination from Tracy put a smile on my face.” Akther is currently working in NVCC’s Information Technology Department as part of the department’s helpdesk team and considering careers in law enforcement when she graduates next year. Run through NVCC’s Business Division, the WAVE program is designed to build students’ academic and work skills while developing each individual student’s personal emotional quotient, enabling him or her to get along successfully in the real world.
NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. opened the annual celebration with remarks about the progress of the 17 student honorees: “Your stories bring meaning to the work we do,” said President De Filippis. “It is particularly important this year to celebrate the resilient spirit and the intellectual achievements of these radiant women who have overcome so many obstacles and found their path forward through education and courage and determination.”
Carlee Drummer, Ph.D., President of Quinebaug Valley Community College, was the keynote speaker. A reflection on her family history and her own life’s journey, Dr. Drummer’s speech was filled with a gratitude for the reverence that education had among her maternal grandparents and parents. She recounted some of the obstacles she faced as a woman in her studies, and in her career, and the spirited way she chose to overcome these obstacles while building a strong foundation of skills that would be help her long into her career. In the spirit of commemorating Women’s History Month, President Drummer said, “I hope all of you will take a moment to reflect on the women in your lives. Those who you have helped and those who have helped you.”
The acknowledgement and celebration of this year’s inductees was just the beginning of the afternoon festivities, however. NVCC’s Associate Dean of Development, Angela Chapman, and Rose-Mary Rodrigues, Director of NVCC’s Women’s Center, announced the receipt of a generous $10,000 grant from the Women’s Giving Circle at the Connecticut Community Foundation that will be earmarked to begin a new program at the College. NVCC’s Women’s Lead, Empower, Achieve and Persist (LEAP) Program will support the needs of a select group of determined female students who demonstrate resilience and tenacity in furthering their educations despite the barriers, odds, adversity and overwhelming challenges they are faced with through relevant workshops, mentorships, and other proactive measure that improve retention leading to graduation.
“We are truly grateful to the Women’s Giving Circle at the Connecticut Community Foundation for the support of this program to help these deserving women achieve their dreams of a higher education.” said Dean Chapman.
"The stories of the students honored at the Women’s Tea were both inspiring and eye-opening," said Julie Loughran, President and CEO of the Connecticut Community Foundation. "College academics are tough even under the best circumstances. To pursue college education with added challenges like family opposition, financial hardship, cultural adjustment, language barriers, child-rearing demands and the many other potential roadblocks these students have faced while at NVCC would overwhelm many of us. But these resilient, determined women have persevered. I stand in awe of their grit, eager to hear of their future successes, and grateful to NVCC for providing a flexible, supportive and nurturing environment in which students like the Women’s Tea honorees are able to thrive."
A special guest to the event and former colleague of President De Filippis, Associate Dean for Community and External Relations, Ana I. García Reyes of Hostos Community College, where President De Filippis formerly served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, delivered a very special gift and announcement to close the festivities. García presented an honorary citation from New York Congressman Adriano Espaillat, who serves New York’s 13th congressional district recognizing President De Filippis for her “extraordinary contributions to higher education.”
The event was moderated by NVCC Professor of Hospitality Management, Karen Rotella and Dean of Administration Dana Elm. The food from the luncheon was created by students of NVCC’s Food Production and Purchasing Class, the NVCC Service Management Class, and the Naugatuck Events Management Club.