Taylor Hemphill ’17, a social work major and student ambassador in the Women’s Center at Eastern Connecticut State University; Kemesha Wilmot, associate director of the University’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE); and Elijah Oliver, enrollment services coordinator at Manchester Community College (MCC), have been named recipients of Eastern’s 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards. A packed house was on hand when the University presented the awards on Feb. 23 in the Student Center Theater.
Hemphill’s work with the Women’s Center field placement group “helped each member to center their attention on the needs of the community,” said Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of the Women’s Center. Hemphill also volunteered in the Petey Greene’s Prisoner Assistance Program, where she concentrated her efforts on facilitating change in the lives of incarcerated women, strengthening the communication skills of inmates to enhance their chances of employment upon release. Hemphill did this and more while earning Dean’s List distinction and serving as a resident assistant at Eastern.
Wilmot has served in a number of capacities at Eastern. Prior to her current position, she served as a resident assistant; hall director; academic advisor; assistant director of Center for Internships and Career Development; and coordinator of the Intercultural Center. Over the years, Wilmot has served as an advisor to several university clubs such as FEMALES, the African Club, the Asian Cultural Society and United Voices of Praise. She also developed the Multicultural Leadership Council and helped create the Peer Mentoring Initiative in the Academic Advising Center. “Kemesha has used her passion, education and strong connection with her students to motivate and encourage students to learn more about diversity, social justice and life after college,” said Alicia McKenzie, who works with Wilmot in the CCE. “She has made incredible differences in the lives of so many people.”
In addition to his full-time position at MCC, Oliver ’07 has demonstrated exemplary service to the wider community in supporting young people of color. He founded Take FLYGHT Enterprises (TFE), an organization with programs designed to help young people “prepare for lift off” in life and become the very best people they can be. For example, the TFE’s Money & Math Work$ module is designed to educate and prepare K-12 students to be fiscally responsible and independent, and covers financial topics such as spending habits, managing credit and debt, and budgeting. Oliver is also a certified master life coach who attained his certification through the American Union of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
Malik Champlain, a motivational speaker and urban school consultant who overcame numerous obstacles to obtain a college education, delivered the keynote address.