Westport shines spotlight on diversity trailblazers
It was a celebration of accomplishment, diversity and the stance of a town that has set a premiere example for other communities to follow.
TEAM (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism), Westport's official committee on multiculturalism and diversity, today honored Dr. Albert Beasley, Claire Gold and Andy Boas, three individuals who have committed themselves to pursuing equal opportunity for disadvantaged people. The group's second annual "Diversity Trailblazers Awards" event, it featured a reception and ceremony and took place at the Stoney Point home of Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler.
Initially established in 2002 by former First Selectman Diane Farrell as a permanent group focused on diversity, TEAM's mission is to achieve and celebrate a community that welcomes everyone. It collaborates closely with other town entities such as the library, playhouse and clergy to promote its objectives, and its activities are solely funded by contributions.
About the honoree selection process, Nick Rudd, chairman of TEAM's marketing committee, said, "Our 15 members confer about candidates, attempting to represent a spectrum of the community and recognize people that have made a real difference in promoting diversity in all aspects of life."
Fellow board member Sheffer, who is also head of TEAM's advisory council, added, "I grew up here and know these people. Al Beasley was my pediatrician. Claire Gold was superintendent of schools. I suggested Andy Boas as a younger element of the group."
Speaking more about TEAM's objectives, Rudd explained, "TEAM serves as a catalyst for dialogue and engagement about race. We're also focused on children and have been named by the Board of Education as the premiere group to work with the Westport school system. In fact, Westport's Superintendent of Curriculum Brian Fagin is now on TEAM's board."
"Andy wanted to do something that would directly impact kids. He founded the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation to provide scholarship opportunities for Bridgeport high school students. The program gives them a scholarship, a laptop computer and mentor to guide them through all four years of college. He also started the Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Middle School, a charter school serving 500 fifth to eighth graders."
"This is a very meaningful event for Westport," said Boas. "What we have here, not everyone else has. Awareness is critical as well as both contributions of money and time for those who need it desperately. Children have the right to a world-class education no matter where they live."
Fellow honoree Claire Gold said she was "very touched" that TEAM even thought of her. Of course, her record of service betrays her modesty, with her past 20 years committed to diversity issues and working with developing schools in Bridgeport. Notably, she has been spearheading the new Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School, which has a focus on science and technology and is dedicated to grades Pre-K through eighth grade.
Bailey added that Gold is also behind Project Choice, which provides Bridgeport students with the opportunity to go to school in Westport.
"Westport is an unusual community," Gold commented about the town's open-minded stance. "I was the second woman in the state to be appointed superintendent. This town is very progressive. I feel very fortunate to be in the middle of this."
The senior member of the honorees, Beasley, with regard to the award, humbly said, "I guess it means I've had some success in my career. When I moved here in 1953, Westport embraced me. I was accepted for what I had to offer. I appreciate that I've been valued."
The co-founder of Willows Pediatric and practicing pediatrician for more than 50 years added, "Most importantly, I appreciate people for trusting their precious children to me."
"Westport remembers ... we don't forget those that do good for our town," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who officiated the ceremony. "This town has always been a diverse community, with bohemian roots," Joseloff continued. "It has always attracted people of different minds and spirits."
"These honorees are well deserving," he added. "This is just a small token of our appreciation."