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By Erica Moser

Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut President and CEO Maryam Elahi and state Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, were among the five people Connecticut Voices for Children honored at its annual First for Kids event.

CT Voices ― a progressive research, policy and advocacy organization ― held the ceremony Thursday evening in West Hartford.

The awards are a way to “thank the leaders we see fighting every day to make Connecticut a better state for families and children,” said Betsy Yagla, operations and philanthropy director, in an email. The organization has held First for Kids events since 1999.

Yagla said CT Voices has been impressed with how Elahi brings her background in human rights and social justice activism to her role, and how she brings the community together to find solutions to issues like affordable housing and childcare access.

“It is not acceptable in the wealthiest country in the world that some children live in squalor and receive poor health care and education,” Elahi said in her remarks at the event. “To create a better world, we need to think of every child as our very own and provide love, support and opportunities for growth so they can all excel.”

Yagla said Cheeseman puts children and families first when she’s working on policy and in how she runs the Niantic Children’s Museum, and that families appreciated how hard she worked to safely open the museum early in the pandemic.

Yagla and Cheeseman noted that while the organization and the state representative don’t always agree on the solutions or path, they share the same passion and destination, which Cheeseman called “a Connecticut where we can have healthy wonderful children who achieve their full potential.”

CT Voices also honored State Comptroller Sean Scanlon, former State Treasurer Shawn Wooden, and Monette Ferguson, director of the Bridgeport-based Alliance for Community Empowerment.

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