Sunil Bhatia’s childhood trek to school has inspired a lifelong journey, one that will take him this August to Toronto, where he will receive the American Psychological Association's (APA) 2015 International Humanitarian Award.
Junior Alia Roth, a student activist committed to ending sexual assault and power-based personal violence, was honored last month with the Gail Burns-Smith "Dare to Dream" Scholarship/ Stipend Award by Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc. (CONNSACS).
Roth attended the CONNSACS Annual Awareness Event in Hartford, Conn., on April 19 to accept the award, given annually to an individual with a “commitment to anti-sexual assault awareness, policy, prevention and advocacy on behalf of victims of sexual violence.” The award comes with a $500 stipend.
“It’s such an honor to be recognized for all of the work that I have done on an issue that I am so passionate about,” Roth said.
Roth, a government major and human development minor and scholar in the College's Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, said she was encouraged to apply for the award by Darcie Folsom, Connecticut College’s coordinator of sexual violence education and advocacy. That same week, she was assigned to pick a grant she could apply for as part of a Holleran Center seminar. Working with Folsom and mentors from the Holleran Center, she wrote an essay detailing her involvement with and commitment to sexual assault prevention and public policy reform and her plans for the stipend, should she win.
Roth has been heavily involved in education and advocacy -- on campus and off. This year, Roth served as chair of fundraising for Connecticut College’s production of the “The Vagina Monologues” and as a volunteer for SafetyNet, a campus organization of students who influence their peers through education, awareness and prevention strategies in order to foster a safer, more proactive and engaged environment that will ultimately reduce the occurrence of power-based personal violence. Last year, she interned with the Think S.A.F.E. Project, Connecticut College’s umbrella resource for sexual assault, dating violence and stalking information and prevention. She has also interned at Wynona’s House, a child advocacy agency for victims of physical and sexual abuse in Newark, New Jersey, and this summer is working at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washingon, D.C.
Proceeds from the College’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” each year are donated to Safe Futures (formerly the Women’s Center of Southeastern Connecticut), a local resource center, emergency shelter and transitional living program for families working to rebuild lives shattered by domestic violence or sexual assault. Last year, the production raised more than $10,000.
“She poured so much energy and heart into her work. I thought she would be the perfect candidate for the Gail Burns-Smith Award,” said Folsom, who accompanied Roth to the Annual Awareness Event last month.
“I was thrilled that [Folsom] could come as my guest, because without her I really never could have achieved any of this,” Roth said. “She has provided me with guidance and mentorship that was beyond anything I ever anticipated.”
At the event, Roth was presented with the Gail Burns-Smith Award by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who she says is a role model for advocates.
“Hearing him speak about fighting for victim’s rights on the Senate floor was so inspirational,” she said. “Being in his presence was both humbling and motivating.”
Roth will use the award stipend to begin work on the 2014 production of “The Vagina Monologues.”
“It starts our fundraising off on a really strong note and will allow us to run more awareness campaigns throughout the year,” Roth said.
Folsom said she is excited to watch Roth continue to excel in her senior year.
“I cannot express how proud I am of the amazing woman that Alia is,” Folsom says. “I am so excited to see where her passion and intrigue take her next.”
- By Bailey Bennett ’14
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