Three area residents to receive first Martin Luther King, Jr. Vision Awards

Three area residents to receive first Martin Luther King, Jr. Vision Awards

Three area residents will receive Fairfield University's first Martin Luther King, Jr. Vision Awards during ceremonies celebrating the life of the slain civil rights leader on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 3 p.m., in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. They are Fairfield Tomlinson Middle School personnel, Principal Edward Brennan of Monroe, and Kathy Niznansky of Fairfield, chair of the Diversity Committee, who have helped forge a relationship between the middle school and a school for homeless children in Haiti; and Felipe Reinoso of Bridgeport, principal and co-founder of The Bridge Academy High School in Bridgeport.

The award recognizes their "tireless effort to instill and inspire the teachings and ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. in today's youth." Speaking at the event will be Dr. Cornel West, a well-known and respected writer and a professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy of Religion at Harvard University.

Mr. Brennan and Ms. Niznansky have played leadership roles in developing programs at Tomlinson that have linked the students and staff to Project Pierre Toussaint in Cap Haitien, Haiti. The Project houses and educates homeless boys and has now been adopted by Tomlinson as its sister school.

In addition, they have worked with Larri Mazon, director of Multicultural Relations at Fairfield University, to develop a series of Building Bridges Programs with teachers to help them bring diversity awareness to students. The Building Bridges Program has incorporated diversity activities into various learning units for students.

Kathy Niznansky Students at Tomlinson became interested in the Haitian children after reading a newspaper story about Fairfield's efforts to help street children in Haiti. Social studies teacher Kathy Niznansky worked the students' interest into the curriculum, starting with their drafting of a Declaration of Human Rights to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Since then a number of fundraisers have taken place, raising $8,000 over two years to assist Project Pierre Toussaint. Last year Mr. Brennan led a group of four teachers to Haiti where they helped paint buildings, repaired holes on the soccer field and helped the Hatian children paint a mural in the art room.

Brennan Last fall one of the key Haitian teachers from Project Pierre Toussaint, Robenson, visited Fairfield University and Tomlinson Middle School. He returned to Haiti with $500 worth of art supplies from Tomlinson. Another group of Tomlinson teachers are planning to visit the Cap Hatien school and residential cottages next month.

A 1965 graduate of Fairfield University, Mr. Brennan credits a 1963 University-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., where he heard Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech, with determining his career in teaching.

Mr. Brennan also holds a master's degree in history from Fordham University and did graduate work at New York and Fairfield Universities.

Ms. Niznansky is a graduate of St. John's University and holds a master's degree from Fairfield University and a Sixth Year certificate from the University of New England.

Felipe Reinoso A native of Peru, Felipe Reinoso founded and has been program director for the Saturday Hispanic Academy in Science at Sacred Heart University since1989. Three years ago he co-founded the Bridge Academy High School, a charter high school on Barnum Avenue in Bridgeport that prepares its students for college.

In 1999 he was one of 21 honorees to receive the President's Service Award for volunteer efforts directed at solving critical social problems. The award is the highest honor given annually by the President of the United States for volunteerism.

In the fall, Mr. Reinoso was elected to the Connecticut State House of Representatives. He is a member of the Board of Directors of United Way of Eastern Fairfield County and served as president of the Hispanic Congress of Bridgeport from 1996 to 1999.

A graduate of Sacred Heart University, he earned a master's degree in bilingual special education from Fairfield University and a Sixth Year Intermediate Administrator and Supervisor certificate from Sacred Heart.

Posted On: 01-12-2001 09:01 AM

Volume: 33 Number: 125