Willimantic, Conn: — Elsa M. Núñez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University, received the 2012 Transforming Lives Award from Hartford-based Family Life Education during its 25th anniversary gala on Nov. 3 at the Connecticut Convention Center.
In accepting the award, Núñez talked about the challenges and struggles that Latinos have faced in Connecticut and the impact that education can have on a person’s life. “When someone in a Puerto Rican family, an African American family, or an inner-city student from a low-income family is the first family member to attend college, it not only transforms one life,” she explained. “Graduating from college tells a student, ‘Yes you can.’ It tells his or her family, ‘We are strong.’ It tells an entire neighborhood, ‘We can succeed.’ It is like a pebble tossed into still water — it ripples and ripples and ripples, until it reaches all shores.”
Family Life Education is an independent, non-profit organization that empowers inner-city families in the Hartford area through partnerships with corporate, civic and social organizations. This year’s event marks the 17th year that Family Life Education has honored a community leader for their support of young people in Hartford.
“President Núñez is a powerful example of career achievement for Family Life Education clients, especially the girls and women who are served by our organization,” said Candida Flores, Family Life Education’s executive director. “She has devoted her entire career to the field of education; with special attention to supporting communities of color obtain access to higher learning, including the development of a program identifying Hartford students who have the capacity to succeed academically.”
“Family Life Education has long sought to ensure the healthy growth and development of Hartford’s disenfranchised children through education, advocacy and support,” said Family Life Education Board President James Shortley. “Dr. Núñez is a vigilant advocate for children, especially closing Connecticut’s achievement gap. She is an outstanding role model for young girls and young women served by Family Life Education. Her example instills a desire in them to finish high school, pursue college and advanced training, and become productive citizens willing to give back to their community.”
Connecticut First Lady Cathy Malloy, who also served on the Gala Honorary Committee, presented Núñez with a special citation from Governor Dannel Malloy. In addition, a citation from Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra was also presented to Núñez at the gala. Past Family Life Education gala awardees include Nathan Grube, tournament director of the Traveler’s Championship; Dr. Paul Dworkin, executive vice president of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center; and Greg Butler, general counsel for Northeast Utilities.
Since Núñez’s arrival at Eastern in 2006, the University has received several awards and recognitions, including being named one of the top 30 regional public universities in the North by U.S. News and World Report; being recognized for the fourth year in a row by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a “Great College to Work For”; being named to President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll With Distinction, one of only 110 institutions nationally to receive this recognition; and being included in The Princeton Review’s list of “Best Colleges in the Northeast,” just to name a few of the distinctions the University has garnered in the past six years.
Family Life Education was founded in 1987 to address teenage pregnancy among Puerto Rican youth in Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood. The organization partners with other agencies to strengthen the Hartford community by supporting families in developing life and employability skills. Family Life Education helps at-risk, low-income families by giving them the confidence and tools needed to manage their own lives with dignity. Services focus on the needs of families, children and youth in Hartford; the majority are of Latino heritage, with a small percentage of clients being of African American and South Asian descent.