News about the program and our honorees

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.

English Teacher’s Novel Set For Publication

Since we honored Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle in 2003, she has emerged as a prolific author while continuing to cultivate young minds as an English teacher at Swain County High School in North Carolina. 

Her latest novel, Even As We Breathe, is to be published by the University of Kentucky Press in the summer of 2020. The novel focuses on a young Cherokee man, who must clear his name when he is accused of abducting a diplomat’s daughter while working at a World War II prisoner-of-war camp in North Carolina. 

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Ms. Clapsaddle, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI), resides in Cherokee, N.C., her hometown, with her husband, Evan, and their sons, Ross and Charlie. 

A recent article in Cherokee One Feather, an ECBI publication, tells the story of how she became a published novelist.

Her first novel, Going to Water, won the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium in 2012. The novel was the 2017-2018 selection for Western Carolina University’s One Book program. 

She is the author of a series of bi-lingual children’s books published by EBCI and illustrated by Cherokee artists. She wrote a chapter in a novel titled Naked Came the Leaf Peeper, a collaboration of several writers from western North Carolina. She is co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and writes bimonthly columns for Smoky Mountain Living magazine.

She received an Alma Exley memorial scholarship while at Yale, where she earned her B.A. degree, and then she earned an M.A. from William & Mary College.

She returned home to Cherokee, where she served as assistant to the principal chief of the EBCI for three years before beginning her teaching career.  

From 2007 to 2012 she taught English and Cherokee studies at Swain County High School. She left the classroom in 2013 to serve as executive director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. She returned in 2015 to Swain County High School, where she continues to teach. 

Congratulations to Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, who has secured a prominent place in the literacy scene of western North Carolina. I’m sure her experience as a published author enables her to bring exceptional depth to her teaching. Her students are lucky to have her as their teacher.

By the way, when we honored Ms. Saunooke, I was surprised to learn that a Cherokee community was living in North Carolina. I thought the Cherokees had been expelled from the southeastern states in the 19th century and relocated to Oklahoma. But here’s the story, in a nutshell. 

Until the early 19th century, the Cherokees controlled a vast territory encompassing parts of present-day Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. Under the presidency of Andrew Jackson, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to evict the tribal members from their homes and territory. Thousands of Cherokees were forced westward to Oklahoma, in a devastating march that became known as the Trail of Tears. At the time that catastrophe, a few hundred individuals escaped to the mountains of western North Carolina, where they were able to reclaim land and eventually establish their reservation, where thousands live today.

This story is told in an excellent novel called Thirteen Moons, by Charles Frazer, another writer residing in western North Carolina. 

– Woody Exley

State Will Recruit More Minority Teachers

Gov. Ned Lamont with State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont highlighted the need for more teachers of color during a back-to-school forum in Meriden that he led with State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona. 

Lamont mentioned that he signed a bill into law that aims to increase the recruiting and retention of minority educators. Overseeing the initiative will be the Teacher Recruitment Policy Oversight Council. Desi Nesmith, the state’s chief school turnaround officer, is among the educators serving on the council. (Dr. Cardona and Mr. Nesmith received Alma Exley memorial scholarships in 1998 and 2000, respectively.)

Specifically, the law mandates that school districts throughout the state must hire at least 250 new minority teachers and administrators per year, and that at least 30 percent of the new hires must be men. The law also directs Connecticut to join interstate agreements to facilitate certification of teachers who move here from other states. And it provides aid for minority college students preparing to be teachers.

Students and educators attended the back-to-school forum at H.C. Wilcox Technical High School, Dr. Cardona’s alma mater.  

Lamont emphasized the need to recruit more minority teachers by noting that 91 percent of Connecticut public school teachers are white while over 40 percent of students are persons of color.

‘I want role models.’

 “It’s really important that kids have folks they identify with,” Lamont said. “I want role models. I want people that young people can look up to and identify and say, ‘This could be me.’”

Christopher Keating, who covered the forum for CT Mirror, wrote that Lamont told reporters after the meeting that the state intends to move quickly to improve the recruitment of diverse educators in the next academic year.

“We’re going to have more minority teachers, more male teachers in our school system starting next year,” Lamont told reporters outside the school. 

Schools Dealing with Society’s Problems

Dr. Cardona said the state’s public schools are facing a wide variety of problems that are prevalent in society.

“Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry,” he said. “They don’t learn as well if they’re hungry. They don’t learn as well if their teeth hurt. They don’t learn well if they have housing instability.”

Dr. Cardona, who previously served as an assistant superintendent in Meriden, has been co-chairman of a special task force on closing the achievement gap — a long-running problem in Connecticut, where test scores have traditionally been higher in the suburbs than in the cities.