EASTCONN 2021 Students of the Year

Contact: Dona Prindle
EASTCONN, Communications and Marketing Specialist
2 EASTCONN Students Earn CAACE Learners of the Year Award

Willimantic – The Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education (CAACE) has named two EASTCONN Adult and Community Programs students as their 2021 Learners of the Year.
The honorees, Maria (Rosi) Lázaro and Carol Bennett, both of Willimantic, were acknowledged for their educational achievements and perseverance during the 40th Annual CAACE Conference on March 12, 2021. Each year, CAACE selects five adults from among the state’s adult education programs to receive the Learner of the Year award.
“Congratulations to our Learners of the Year,” said Rich Tariff, Director of EASTCONN Adult and Community Programs. “This recognition was well deserved. I am sure that they will both continue to be role models and inspirations for those who know them.”
Lázaro is a 2020 Graduate of EASTCONN’s Spanish GED High School Completion program. As a child, she was unable to complete her schooling because she needed to care for her siblings so her mother could go to work. Years later, after raising a family of her own, she was able to enroll in EASTCONN’s English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) program, as well as the Spanish GED program; she earned her Spanish GED last year. Next, she enrolled in EASTCONN’s National Customer Service Credential program and, as an avid cook, has already completed several ServSafe certifications. Lázaro is an active member of her church and is an advocate for immigrant families in her community, especially new arrivals and those who don’t speak English.
Bennett is a 2021 graduate of EASTCONN’s NEDP High School Completion program. She left high school early, during a time when work, not education, was her family’s focus. Eventually, she raised her own family and spent her career working in group homes caring for disabled adults. She has been the primary caretaker for several family members and volunteers at a church in Putnam, helping to prepare meals for those in need. Now that Bennett has earned her diploma, her next goal is to become a either a certified nursing assistant or a certified medical assistant through EASTCONN’s Adult and Continuing Education programs.
“It’s unusual to have 2 winners from one adult education program, so we are doubly delighted about their achievements,” said Kristin Hempel, EASTCONN’s Associate Director for Adult and Community Programs. “Both of these women have demonstrated the tenacity and determination it takes to pursue their education and, ultimately, their career goals. It’s humbling. We’re very proud of them.”
CAACE is a non-profit organization that provides leadership in advancing the concept of lifelong learning, and offering professional development conferences and activities. Learn more at https://caace.org/.
EASTCONN is a public, non-profit, Regional Educational Service Center that has been serving the education needs of schools and communities in northeastern Connecticut since 1980. To learn more about EASTCONN and its Adult and Community Education Programs, visit www.eastconn.org.



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