Peace Islands Institute (PII) Connecticut hosted the 4th Annual Friendship Dinner and Awards Ceremony at Hilton Hartford on February 20, 2014. The theme of the event was “Challenges in Education”. The keynote speaker, president of Eastern Connecticut State University, Dr. Elsa M. Nunez, and guest speaker Dr. Mark Webb, Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Philosophy Department from Texas Tech University, honored as speakers of the evening along with many distinguished guests from academia, business, media and politics.
In pursuit of reception, the dinner began with the Director of PII Connecticut Mr. Mehmet Erdogdu’s welcome speech. A brief video documentary about PII’s mission, vision and latest events and activities followed the welcoming speech.
The remarks from the guest speaker Dr. Webb was delivered after the guests enjoyed their dinner. Dr. Webb briefly talked about the Hizmet Movement’s Contribution to Education, and the importance of getting to know people of different religious traditions in order to build stronger relationships from our differences. Following Dr. Webb’s remarks, Dr. Elsa M. Nunez delivered the keynote speech about the challenges in education and her work at Eastern Connecticut State University in effort to close the achievement gaps. “Closing academic achievement gap can only be solved with the leaders of our communities, businesses, government officials, educators, faith based organizations and community groups joining hands one with each other to close the gap” she said. Dr. Nunez also highlighted the importance of making a difference one life at time in pathway to change our communities. A brief video presentation about the dual enrollment program at Eastern for students with disadvantaged backgrounds followed her speech.
The awards ceremony took place after the delivery of the keynote speech. The honorees were nominated from a nomination poll that started in November. The “Outstanding Contribution to the Community” award was presented to Dr. Gretchen K. Berland from Yale School of Medicine by Prof. Muhammad Elahee, PII Advisory Board Member and Chairperson of International Business at Quinnipiac University. Dr. Berland was nominated for her efforts in providing the best possible health care to underserved patient population in New Haven county; academic efforts in educating young generations of physicians to actively engage in solving social and cultural challenges of their patient, and artistic work in film-producing by developing seminar series on the role of media in medicine.
Honorable Congressmen Jim Himes representing Connecticut’s Fourth District was presented the “Statesmen of the Year” award. The award was given by PII advisory board member Dr. Olti Albajrami for his positive contributions to education, specifically in the areas of Early Head Start and No Child Left Behind programs.
Lastly, the “Educator of the Year” award was presented to Principal of Central High School, Stephen Anderson by Rukiye Maras; Director for Center for Education at PII for his leadership as an administrator and positive contributions to his students and the district. Stephen Anderson ended his thank you remarks with the “biggest challenge in education is poverty, there is a hidden poverty; poverty of love”. The night ended with the closing remarks.