Milford resident earns top SCSU leadership honor

Sydney King

Sydney King

Contributed photo

Sydney King of Milford is one of this year's recipients of the prestigious Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award at Southern Connecticut State University.

King, a senior at SCSU who is majoring in cultural anthropology and minoring in Spanish, has centered her focus around social justice and community outreach — making it the priority of her time at Southern.

She is currently spending the spring semester immersing herself in the culture to learn the Spanish language further.

Each year, 12 seniors are chosen by the four Connecticut State Universities - four each from Southern and Central, and two each from Eastern and Western. It is considered among the university’s most prestigious student awards and given to those found to have demonstrated a strong commitment to leadership, academics and community engagement. Criteria include a 3.7 GPA or better and having demonstrated significant participation in university and/or community life.

King’s passion for service started when she was 14 years old, when she began participating in faith-led mission trips through her church. During these trips, King would spend two to four weeks every summer volunteering her time on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota — home of the Indigenous North American Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe — one of the poorest in the Northern Hemisphere.

During her time there, King helped to teach summer school to children living in the Red Shirt village. She credits her mission trips to Pine Ridge as a turning point in high school.

“I had developed an anxiety disorder in the fall,” King said. “Most of my anxiety stemmed from a lack of purpose or a feeling of inadequacy. I did not believe that the track I was on to attend a prestigious college and obtain a high-paying job would conceive anything but material comfort.”

In addition to volunteering at Pine Ridge, King took a year off between high school and college to join the AmeriCorps NCCC program. She traveled to California to help teach underprivileged students and rebuild homes lost to the devastating Northern California wildfires.

King’s academic adviser, Kathleen Skoczen, professor of anthropology, highlighted King’s focus on social justice and its impact on King’s decision to attend Southern and continue her work to change communities.

“Over the last three and a half years, Sydney has become a role model and leader in qualities that define public service at SCSU,” Skoczen said. “[Sydney] is an enthusiastic, energetic, thoughtful activist who will certainly bring forth a more just world.”

King has extended her commitment to service by studying abroad in Chile. She is currently spending the spring semester immersing herself in the culture to learn the Spanish language further. With plans to pursue a master’s degree following her graduation, King hopes to expand her knowledge and reach to help more lives.

“My time at Southern Connecticut State University provided me with an innovative and diverse environment to learn from people’s real lives,” King said. “As I move forward in applying for fellowship and graduate school, I am looking to experience the inner workings of political and social change.”