Young people and the adults who mentor and inspire them were honored by more than 120 people at Friday’s Freedom Fund banquet, hosted by the NAACP Norwich branch’s Robertsine Duncan Youth Council.
Derell Wilson, the president of the youth council, said the youth and adults being honored fit the theme of the annual dinner, “Cherishing our past, redefining our future.”
“We’re all part of the past,” he said, “but we’re helping change how we do things in the future.”
Keynote speaker Pedro Segarra, the mayor of Hartford, told the crowd that they and he had not let the circumstances of their birth define who they grew up to be.
Segarra said he was born into poverty, abused and raised by a single mother in Puerto Rico and later New York and Connecticut. He went to community college in Hartford and earned a full scholarship to the University of Hartford because of his hard work, he said.
“Adversities make us stronger and help us work toward a better future,” he said.
“For youth in poverty, there is hope, a future and a way to overcome,” he said to applause.
Adults honored Friday included Illustrious R. Johnson, a past high priest of the Freemasons, with the Pioneer Award; NAACP branch President Jacqueline Owens, with the President’s Award; Chantaal M. Goodwater, with the branch’s first ACT-SO (youth academic talent) Competition Award; and 12-year youth council adviser Byron S. Wilson, as Adviser of the Year.
Norwich Superintendent of Schools Abby Dolliver, Norwich Free Academy Diversity and Community Relations Director Leo Butler and Norwich Walmart manager Ada Johnson all received the Chain of Love award.
Honored youths were twin sisters Destiny and Miracle Jones, seventh-graders at Teachers’ Memorial Middle School; Yvdovia S. Wilson, a fifth-grader at Sacred Heart School in Taftville and assistant treasurer of the youth council; and Barron J. Williams, a junior at the Virtual Learning Academy and vice president of the youth council, who received the Chain of Love award.