March 31, 2021 Duc Tinh

WINSTED, CT – March 29, 2021 –Inez Ortiz and Isabella Jacobs spent the past three weekends attending the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights (OCHR) spring workshop, titled Racial Justice, Minority Rights and Religious Freedom, held virtually at Oxford University, England, March 12-28, 2021.  The 35-hour workshop concluded with student presentations on March 28.

Inez and Isabella (Izzy) represented Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC), which has had attendees at the OCHR workshop for five consecutive years. “This workshop has allowed me to learn about human rights issues around the world and has really given me a new perspective about careers in this field.” states Izzy, a first year Liberal Arts & Science student at NCCC.

Inez and Izzy are Torrington High School and NWR7 graduates, respectively. Inez will be completing her associate degree this May from NCCC and will be transferring to Western CT State University for her bachelor’s degree. Inez’s career goal is to become an environmental lawyer. Izzy plans to transfer after completing her degree in accounting, at NCCC. They are both members of Team Success Scholars, which helped to financially support their participation in the conference.

Team Success Scholars Program Director Susan Dichter also attended this spring workshop, facilitating breakout sessions and leading discussion groups. “These experiences are truly transformative for the students.  They learn about human rights issues on a global scale, discussing with students from all over the world on actionable plans, and then they come back to their local community empowered with the skills and passion to make grass-roots change in their local community.”

Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox, Associate Professor of Legal Studies at Quinnipiac University and Executive Director of the OCHR, has worked closely with NCCC students since 2016 on community action planning initiatives. Quinnipiac and NCCC students work collaboratively at community action summits to share ideas and best practices to better understand human rights in their own backyard, and to bring actionable change into their community. “It has been a pleasure to collaborate with the incredible Susan Dichter and the outstanding students from NCCC’s Team Success Scholars program for many years now. It has been quite a privilege to work with NCCC for our global human rights workshops and to see, upon their graduation from NCCC, several students have come to Quinnipiac University to successfully complete our four-year university program. A special note of thanks to President Rooke and Northwestern Connecticut Community College for supporting the Team Success Scholars and enabling their participation in these opportunities. In the time that I have spent with them, I have seen them become true leaders and catalysts for their peers. I look forward to our continued collaboration on a variety of programs.”

The OCHR workshops are designed to provide structured and sustained conversations with leading scholars and practitioners of human rights, and equally as important, with outstanding peers from other institutions.  The Oxford Consortium workshops include participants from throughout the United States and from a number of countries in the Global South.  The University of Houston, University of Oregon, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, UCONN, and University of Southern California are among the many American universities that have sent participants to the OCHR.

On March 28, Inez and Izzy co-presented their community action projects to the OCHR workshop titled “The Politics of Visibility”, looking at two overlooked populations in society – immigrants who have made Torrington their home, and the challenges of social reentry of criminal offenders. Inez’s team has worked collaboratively with Mark McEachern, Executive Director of the Torrington Historical Society for three years to develop The Mosaic Project: www.torringtonhistoricalsociety.org/immigrant-history. Mark states, “The Mosaic’s purpose is to document and celebrate the diversity of the immigrants who have chosen to call Torrington home, and to serve as an online place where neighbors of various ethnic backgrounds can get to know and understand one another, thus building a stronger community.” Izzy’s team has researched the challenges of criminal offenders as they reenter society to seek employment, education, housing, and healthcare. Her team has collaborated with Mike Emmanuel, Professor of Criminal Justice at NCCC to understand these challenges and to develop a social reentry simulation to educate and raise awareness of the issue.

Financial support for the conference comes from the Team Success Scholars program, supported through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds, and administered through the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board (NRWIB).  WIOA youth funds are targeted at young people who are out of school to assist them in their career and educational development.  These funds are allocated to the states by the US Department of Labor. Additional funds for the Team Success Scholars program come from the Northwest Community Bank of Winsted.

For more information contact Susan Dichter, Program Director of Team Success Scholars sdichter@nwcc.edu.

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