Jason Rojas, Trinity’s director of community relations and a state representative from East Hartford, was presented Wednesday evening with the Legislative Leadership Award by Connecticut Voices for Children, a New Haven-based research and advocacy organization.
Rojas, who was first elected to the state House in 2008, was cited for his “commitment to supporting children’s access to equitable quality educational opportunity.” Rojas’s work at Trinity on behalf of neighborhood groups, families and children in Hartford’s South End was also highlighted in the introductory remarks made by Robert Cotto, Jr., a senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices.
Rojas’s award was one of four handed out at the organization’s 2013 First for Kids Ceremony, an annual event that “celebrates the extraordinary accomplishments” of advocates for Connecticut’s children and families. On hand at West Hartford’s Pond House Cafe were Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, many state legislators and members of education and children’s advocacy groups.
Rojas, who holds a B.A. from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in public policy from Trinity, was in excellent company. Others honored included David Nee, executive director of the Graustein Memorial Fund, who was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for his “twenty-plus years of service and commitment to children”; Joette Katz, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, who was given the State Policy Leadership Award for her “dedication and tenacity in reforming Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families;” and United Way of Connecticut/2-1-1, which was given the Public Service Award for its HUSKY Infoline project “that has provided outstanding service to families needed one-on-one help with accessing critically needed health coverage and care.”
Malloy commended Rojas, now in his third term representing East Hartford and Manchester, for his leadership at the Capitol, noting that Rojas is one of those rare legislators who is contemplative, studies the issues and is willing “to stick his neck out and is willing to take on a cause.”
Cotto also praised Rojas for his “deep understanding of the issues,” listing education reform, family violence, racial and socio-economic diversity in school choice, access to affordable housing, intervention for at-risk youths as some of the many thorny subjects that Rojas has tackled. Cotto also pointed out that as Trinity’s director of community relations, Rojas has actively supported the Trinity College Boys and Girls Club and other neighborhood groups such as the Girls Scouts of Connecticut, Nutmeg Big Brothers and Sisters and youth sports teams.
At the Capitol, Rojas is a member of the Education and the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees, and he co-chairs the Planning and Development Committee.
Connecticut Voices underscored the contributions Rojas made in the education reform bill of 2012, when he advocated for a pilot project in 15 state schools that will use reading assessments, targeted interventions, and well-trained teachers to bolster reading skills.
“This initiative reflects compelling research on brain development and public health showing the impact of poverty on our youngest children – revealing that poor children enter school an average of two years behind their peers and that early intervention is key to educational success,” according to the description of Rojas’s work.
Connecticut Voices also lauded Rojas for speaking on behalf of too-often unheard youth. “Representative Rojas took the lead on legislation that will require reporting on how many students are attending alternative schools and an assessment of how these children are faring academically and the quality of their curricular.”
Rojas thanked Connecticut Voices for the award, acknowledging that the research and high quality of information provided by the New Haven think tank help make his job easier.