Naugatuck Valley Community College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D., students, faculty and staff celebrated the 11th annual High Tea commemorating Women’s Heritage Month and International Women’s Day. The program, featuring keynote speaker Kimberly M. Goff-Crews, Secretary and Vice President for University Life at Yale University, celebrated the success of NVCC students who have overcome significant challenges. Vice President Goff-Crews delivered an inspirational narrative, weaving in lessons learned from her mother about the importance of education, resilience and innovation in our lives as we engage in a powerful journey of discovery as women with the capacity to succeed and to do so with character and moral clarity.
In its 11th year, the event was established by President De Filippis to recognize student success in overcoming remarkable life challenges. In her opening remarks, the President congratulated and encouraged the students. “Your stories bring meaning to the work we do. This is now your time. Your time to rise is here. Your time to bloom as beautiful, strong women is here. Choose to do so with moral clarity.”
Reflecting on some principles and advice she wanted to share with the audience, President De Filippis read the essay titled Goodness, by Toni Morrison.
“Allowing goodness its own speech does not annihilate evil, but it does allow me to signify my own understanding of goodness: the acquisition of self-knowledge. A satisfactory or good ending for me is when the protagonist learns something vital and morally insightful that she or he did not know at the beginning.”
President De Filippis extended a very special welcome to guest speaker, Kimberly M. Goff-Crews, Secretary and Vice President for University Life at Yale University with whom she is privileged to work as a sister commissioner in NECHE. In addition to Goff-Crews, special guests at the event included Dr. Mary Ellen Jukowski, President of Three Rivers Community College, Dr. Jim Lombella, President of the North-West Region, Esther Rodriguez-Chardavoyne, Senior Vice President for Administration at Hostos Community College and Ana I. García Reyes, Associate Dean of Community Relations at Hostos Community College, where President De Filippis formerly served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
President De Filippis was also delighted to have at her table, Tabitha Cruz, President of the NVCC Student Government Association, and Dr. Ron Picard, Professor of English and President of the NVCC Faculty Senate. The event was attended by many women leaders in the community including Martha Bernstein, Chair of the NVCC Foundation, Julie Loughran, President & CEO of the Connecticut Community Foundation, Saran White, Executive Director of The Leever Foundation, Mari-Jean Morelli, member of the NVCC Foundation, Cyndi Zoldy, member of the NVCC Foundation, Lynn Franklin-Henry, member of the NVCC Regional Advisory Council, and Susan Troupe, member of the NVCC Regional Advisory Council.
This year’s tea honored 22 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. Honorees included Jajaira Amengual, Victoria Angelo, Julia Avila, Lattesha Binns, Maria Cajamarca, Jocelyn Cioffi, Gabriella Colello, Mishkajh Davis, Kiara Dominguez, Raquel Dos Santos, Nicole Hernandez, Kayla Jones, Karen Minchala, Maria Morales, Erevbevhen Ogieva, Elizabeth Ortiz, Tamara Perez, Tatiana Perez, Ashley Rodriguez, Irene Ryan, Myah Vigeant, Lilian Zubek.
NVCC faculty and staff who nominated students spoke on their behalf, including Kimberly Bish, Erika Carrington, Deirdre D’Amore, Bonnie Goulet, Mitch Holmes, Susan Houlihan, Lexie Lopes, Tammy MacBrien Downs, Tracy Mahar, Ivelisse Maldonado, Carlos Plaza, Karen Rotella, Elma Solomon, Kathy Taylor, Yvette Tucker.
The theme shared by the honorees is the challenge of balancing school, work and family. Each story is an example of commitment, accomplishment, perseverance. Bonnie Goulet, Director of Student Development Services in the Center for Academic Planning and Student Success (CAPSS), commented. “I nominated Maria Morales for the Women’s Tea so I could formally recognize her commitment to her education and professional advancement. Despite being faced with multiple obstacles, Maria has remained steadfast in her goal of becoming a nurse. I’m continually impressed with the perseverance and dedication that she has demonstrated and know that she has the potential to be an incredible nurse.” Tracey Mahar, Assistant Worksite Coordinator, WAVE Program nominated Kayla Jones. “Kayla’s strongest attribute is her willingness to always help her peers and be a positive role model for her four younger siblings!”
Erica Carrington, Interim Academic Advisor and Student Retention Specialist, nominated Julia Avila . “Julia chose to come to the United States to pursue a college education. Although it’s hard for her to be far away from her family, she is very grateful to be here and is embracing the endless opportunities that await her. Julia is a smart, strong, driven, and a beautiful young woman both inside and out; we are so happy to have her as part of the NVCC community.”
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.