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Awarding Activism and Aiding Academics

Convention delegates in early May witnessed the online presentation of our annual Unionist of the Year, Joseph H. Soifer, Phyllis H. Kornfeld Golden Achievement and the President’s Awards. The efforts of each of the honored activists to help build collective power for our members — despite the difficulty presented by the pandemic — were recognized.
Veteran educator, long-time State Federation of Vocational Teachers leader and current state federation executive committee vice president Ed Leavy was honored as 2021’s Unionist of the Year. In her announcement, AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel recognized her “friend and mentor” for his resume in the labor movement and record of on-the-ground solidarity.
Click here for a screen-shot of Leavy’s virtual Unionist of the Year presentation.
Another state federation vice president, Laila Mandour, received this year’s Kornfeld Award in recognition of her work organizing fellow retirees here in Connecticut and across the country. The former Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union leader was commended for her “energy, excitement and passion for building collective power” during the convention presentation.
Soifer honors went to current University Health Professionals (UHP) union leader Chris DeFrancesco, recognized for “leading by example” during the pandemic. He was credited during the award presentation for recruiting and organizing 17 UConn Health colleagues to speak out at a legislative public hearing on a priority policy proposal.
Click here for a photo of the Sofer Award recipient at the convention.
Sherri Dayton, RN (above), received the President’s Award in recognition of steady leadership and unwavering courage during a particularly challenging year for all our member health professionals. Chief among her accomplishments was securing a successor contract with increased pay, better benefits and improved working conditions for our affiliated Backus Federation of Nurses, where she serves as president.
Click here to watch and share a short video with highlights on the campaign Dayton helped lead.
The presentation of several additional citations were part of the convention program, including recognition of all activists engaged earlier this year in legislative advocacy at the State Capitol. AFT Connecticut staff were also honored for achieving tenure milestones.
Click here for the full “Awards” report presented to convention delegates.
The pandemic also impacted the announcement of our state federation’s annual scholarships, which are traditionally presented during the convention program. Application deadlines were for the second time extended in 2021, pushing the review and selection process past the May 1 event.
In brief remarks, Kerry Palmer thanked state federation leaders for renaming one of the benefits to honor her mother, former AFT Connecticut President Sharon Palmer. After sharing memories of the long-term labor leader who last winter passed away, she told delegates, “I can’t express to you how much this means to me.”
Members of AFT Connecticut’s Scholarship Committee earlier this month met to determine eligibility and narrow the field of applicants for a total of $12,500 in benefits. This year’s recipients were chosen and subsequently notified of their selection:
  • George C. Springer Scholarship: Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals member Shanita Hill.
  • Sharon Palmer Scholarships: State Vocational Federation of Teachers member Tonya Clark’s child Yousef Masood and West Hartford Federation of Educational Personnel member Nancy Wallace-Sohn’s child Gabriella Sohn.
  • AFT CT Scholarships: VNASC (Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut) Union President Ann Ryan’s child Natalia Ryan and A&R Union member Katara Jones’ child Amani Jones.
Click here for the full report with biographies of each of our 2021 scholarship winners.
The submission window for the next round of educational grants available to members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated locals for 2022 opened last week. The labor movement’s most comprehensive benefits program, Union Plus, is now accepting applications for its incentives.
Click here to apply by January 31 for up to $4,000.00 in scholarship funds.

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