2016 Susan Emmerling Raise Your Voice for Justice Award

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Maine Equal Justice Partners recently recognized Samantha Watson and Kathy Rondone with the 2016 Susan Emmerling Raise Your Voice for Justice Award. This award celebrates the undaunted and passionate work of advocates who connect the dots between their individual experiences and the systemic policy solutions that can improve lives on a broad scale.

Samantha Watson, a nursing student, is a mother who believes in the power and value of education. When she originally learned about the Parents as Scholars (PaS) Program, DHHS discouraged Samantha from applying. Unwilling to give up, she contacted MEJP and learned how to successfully advocate for her right to participate in the program.

Since she was admitted to PaS, Samantha has been a passionate advocate for the rights of parents to access education. During the recent budget hearings, Samantha testified against budget cuts to programs that help parents like herself: “In order to improve the lives of those living in poverty we need to help build people up and provide them with the support they need so that they can in turn become successful.”

At 72, Kathy Rondone says “I went along my whole life. I didn’t speak up. I followed the rules. It was my husband’s illness that taught me how to be an advocate. And I’ve decided now I’m not going to be silent anymore. I’m 72 years old and I am going to speak my mind.”

Kathy testified in support of affordable housing at the legislature and before the Maine State Housing Authority. She was thrust into the media spotlight when she signed on as a spokesperson for the Mainers for
Fair Wages Campaign and helped the general public understand how a fair wage would impact seniors in Maine – the thousands of seniors like Kathy who can’t afford to retire and have to work part-time, low-wage jobs to afford food, housing, and medical bills.

Samantha and Kathy are models of courage and resilience as they have advocated for themselves and others who bear the brunt of an unfair economy. Thank you, Samantha and Kathy, for sharing your stories and your passion for equal justice with all Mainers.