On January 15, 2018, the Athletic Center at Quinsigamond Community College came alive with the sounds of music, inspiration and hope as the college hosted over 700 people at the 33rd Annual Community Breakfast honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Worcester Attorney Polly Tatum was the master of ceremonies for the program, which included QCC President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja as the keynote speaker and speeches by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, U.S. Representative James P. McGovern, Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty and Susan M Mailman, Chairwoman of the QCC Board of Trustees.The Gospel Choir Association of New England, led by Eric Edmonds also performed throughout the program. During the program Dr. Pedraja was presented with the key to the City of Worcester by Mayor Petty in recognition as president of QCC and for his commitment to the City.
Lt. Gov. Polito told the crowd that she felt it was particularly special that the community breakfast was held at QCC.
“I want to say how awesome it is we are on this campus celebrating the great Martin Luther King Jr. because on this campus there are amazing things happening to lift us up and move us forward,” said Lt. Gov. Polito.
The Lt. Governor mentioned QCC’s early college program and how the program is helping to move people forward, giving them hope and opportunities. She also addressed the job training that is available at technical high schools and community colleges across the region saying they offer people the skills they need to advance their careers and enable them to obtain better paying jobs.
One of the highlights of the program was keynote speaker, Dr. Pedraja. QCC’s President gave an impassioned speech echoing Dr. King’s sentiments of standing up against racial inequality and asking those in the audience, “I ask dare we dream, and I say YES because if not us, then who?”
As a first generation college student who emigrated from Cuba with his family as a young child and grew up in low-income Miami neighborhood, Dr. Pedraja said the day honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was very dear to him. Dr. Pedraja advocates tirelessly for increased higher education access for all people, especially those who have been underserved historically by the American higher education system. He has brought this vision and passion to QCC.
“Today education still marks a great divide where some communities have greater access than others,” he said. “If we are to achieve equity, education must be a part of the solution. Education cannot be a commodity reserved solely for the wealthy and the elite. Education is a basic human right.”
The breakfast also honored Cynthia M. McMullen, former principal of Doherty High School, who received this year’s MLK Eleanor Hawley Service Award and Martin Luther King Jr. scholars who received scholarships. Scholarship winners included Collins Gatongo Chege – UMass-Lowell ($1,500), Fabielle Mendoza- UMass-Amherst ($1,500), Ligia Nunez – UMass-Amherst ($1,500), Sandra Orellana- Holy Cross ($1,500), and Ashley Forhan- QCC ($1,000).