By Elizabeth Wesonga, student at S.S. Seward Institute
On Fri., Mar. 10 at Orange County Community College, I was honored to be one of the recipients of the Sojourner Truth Awards. These awards are presented in honor of a woman named Sojourner Truth. The ceremony and presentation of the awards, which honor and recognize the achievements of youth in Orange County, inspired me profoundly.
Sojourner Truth’s original name was Isabella Baumfree. She was sold into slavery and separated from her family at the age of eleven. She was sold several times and while she was owned by a family in Ulster County, she married and had five children.
In 1827, the New York law emancipated all slaves, but Isabella had already left her husband with her youngest child. She later discovered that one her sons had been sold into slavery, but since this son had been emancipated, she sued in court and won his return.
Isabella settled in New York and started to do missionary work among the poor. In 1843, she took on the name Sojourner Truth, because she believed that those were the instructions of the Holy Spirit, and she became a traveling preacher. Sojourner Truth continued her selfless work during the Civil War as she gathered food and clothing contributions for black regiments who were serving in the war. She also challenged the discrimination that segregated streetcars by race and she won. This permitted all people to be allowed to ride freely on the road. As a result of her civil rights activism, Sojourner Truth met Abraham Lincoln in 1864 at the White House.
Sojourner Truth’s Story is an Inspiration
Sojourner Truth’s story and what she stood for in life continue to inspire me every day. As I participated in the ceremony, I felt honored that I was part of such an event that included children from different schools in Orange County, along with their proud parents. They were arranged in their different school districts, joined by some leaders from those schools.
The ceremony began at 6 p.m. with the National Anthem and that was followed by the introduction by Vice President of Student Services. There were a number of inspiring speakers, including the President of the SUNY Orange administration, and the Assistant to the Orange County Executive. There was also an entertaining musical presentation by Jennifer Rodriguez, Emmanuel Carrasquillo and Andrew Garrison.
A letter from the keynote speaker, Monroe Francis, of NYU, who was unable to attend, was read to the recipients by the Vice President of Student Services. Mr. Francis has received many awards, including NYU’s 2012 Distinguished Administrator of the year award. In his letter, he thanked the hosts, the recipients for their hard work, and he encouraged them to keep working hard.
Medals Presented to Recipients
The ceremony continued with the giving of the medals to the recipients. The medals were in different categories including Mathematics, Diversity, Foreign language, Creative Arts, and many others. The medals were awarded by school district and each recipient’s name was announced as they walked up to stage and shook hands with the different officials after receiving their medals. Many students here in the Florida Union Free School District were recipients, including me, and we are glad to have had this opportunity.
Lastly, the winners of the SUNY Orange Foundation scholarship contest were awarded and everyone applauded as they walked to the stage. This concluded the ceremony and everyone stood up and applauded for the hard work of each and every recipient.
It was really an honor to be one of the recipients and to attend this ceremony. I was inspired by my peers to work hard to accomplish my goals in life. I was also inspired by Sojourner Truth to believe that no matter my background, I can still work hard and achieve my goals.
Congratulations to All of the Students
On behalf of Florida Union Free School District, I would like to congratulate all students in Orange County who received the Sojourner Truth award and also thank SUNY Orange Community College for hosting the award ceremony. I would also like to specially congratulate my fellow classmates: Reed Aguas, Ariadna Campos, Justin Chino, Nikki De Los Santos, Sophia Goff, Tyzhana Hicks, Josely Medina, Brenice Moya, Crystal Moya, Alexis Pellegrini, Bryce Thompson, Casedy Perez, Ciara Rivera, Joseph VanDen Burg and Melanie Zambrano.