News about the program and our honorees

Sacha Kelly Lends Her Talent to Black Lives Matter Mural

Sacha Kelly, whom we honored in 2009, has joined with other artists to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on Trinity Street in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant featured Ms. Kelly in its coverage of the mural. The Hartford resident is a mathematics teacher at the Academy of Science and Innovation, a magnet school in New Britain run by the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC).

A group of people posing for a picture

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Sacha Kelly, in white dress, with her husband, Khaiim, to her left, with other artists and Mayor Luke Bronin, far right.

Ms. Kelly painted the white outlines for the letters, and she and 15 other artists filled in each of the letters to create 16 individual works of art.

“If all lives truly did matter,” she told the Courant, “we wouldn’t need the movement because we wouldn’t be attacked with policies, practices and policing. This message needs to be put out so those who are in support can see it and those that are not can see this is the time, we matter, and the movement is not going away.”

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Her husband, Khaiim, the rapper known as Self Suffice, also participated in the project. He told the Courant, “You see Sacha Kelly, she’s a painter and she’s a math teacher; that’s why you see her style is precise, with words, a lot of tiny little things.

“All of these artists are people who work on their craft, but they’re also a teacher, a social worker, in some way a guest artist in our schools,” he said. “I don’t know any one of them who doesn’t work with youth.”

The project was organized by BLM 860 (the Hartford-based Black Lives Matter group), longtime Hartford resident Levi Kardulis, local Black artists and the city of Hartford. The mural runs on Trinity Street from the Civil War memorial to Elm Street.

At the mural’s unveiling on Sunday, July 27, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said, “It’s a beautiful thing to see artists coming from across our state to create this mural. The words are powerful and right, and the mosaic style is beautiful. We’re proud to partner with the community to make this happen.

Congratulations to Sacha Kelly for lending her talents to this civic work of art which conveys a significant and heartfelt message.

  •  Woody Exley

Education Commissioner Welcomes Alma Exley Scholar

Commissioner Cardona and Marquis Harris

Marquis Harris of Waterbury, a junior at the University of Saint Joseph, has been welcomed into the Alma Exley scholarship family by Dr. Miguel Cardona, the Connecticut state commissioner of education.

This meeting was especially fortuitous since Dr. Cardona was one of the first Alma Exley Scholars, in 1998.

Mr. Harris, a secondary education major with a concentration in English literature, was chosen as our 31st Alma Exley Scholar by a diverse selection committee of respected educators. We will honor him at a reception in the spring.

He is a graduate of Wilby High School and Naugatuck Community College in Waterbury. He plans to return to teach at one of the high schools in his hometown after receiving his degree from USJ in 2121.

Setting an Example

“I’ve never had a black, male teacher,” he told Dr. Cardona in a meeting in the commissioner’s office in Hartford. “I want to be the kind of role model that I’ve never had. It’s been said that ‘you cannot be what you cannot see,’ and I want to set the kind of example that students can look up to and emulate.”

Dr. Cardona recalled being honored with the scholarship in 1998 when he was an undergraduate at Central Connecticut State University. He said that the award gave him confidence as he was looking ahead to beginning his teaching career. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate from UConn.

While at the State Department of Education, Mr. Harris also had the opportunity to meet Desi Nesmith, whom we honored with an Alma Exley memorial scholarship in 2000, and who recently had been appointed deputy commissioner.

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Desi Nesmith with Marquis Harris

An Inspiring Experience

Mr. Harris said it was inspiring to meet two Alma Exley Scholars who had risen to important leadership positions. He loves poetry, especially the writing of Emily Dickinson, and he hopes to pass along his appreciation for literature to his students in the future.

Dr. Cardona began his career as an elementary teacher in his hometown of Meriden, and soon became the state’s youngest school principal. He was honored at the White House as a National Distinguished Principal. He served as assistant superintendent in Meriden before being appointed state education commissioner in 2019.

Mr. Nesmith began his career as a teacher at East Hartford’s Mayberry Elementary School, where he was named Teacher of the Year. He served as an elementary principal in Hartford, being named the state’s outstanding first-year principal. He was a principal in his hometown of Bloomfield before joining the State Department of Education, where he served as chief school turnaround officer and interim commissioner until being appointed deputy commissioner late in 2019.

Congratulations to Marquis Harris on this honor, as well as to Dr. Miguel Cardona and Desi Nesmith on their recent appointments to leadership positions at the highest level of public education in the State of Connecticut.


Our Program Cited Among Top 5 in Connecticut

College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized the Alma Exley Scholarship Program as one of the Top 5 Scholarships in Connecticut.

View the announcement and rankings here.

As an official of College Consensus said, “With prospective students facing the increasing costs of higher education, organizations such as yours are an important contributor to making college more affordable.”

Thanks to everyone who has supported and participated in our program, including our generous donors, our selection committee, the colleges and universities who send us such outstanding applicants, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, and our wonderful recipients who make us so proud.

College Consensus is an online resource for students looking for information on scholarships as well as on colleges and the programs they offer. College Consensus ranks scholarships in various categories and regions, and ranks colleges in many categories such as small colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, public universities, business schools, etc.