No method can accurately count and multiply the number of lives positively impacted by teacher and union activist Sonia Basko, who is being honored posthumously.
She changed thousands of students’ lives as a high school English teacher for 18 years; an adjunct professor at Niagara University and at Finger Lakes and Monroe community colleges; and as a literacy consultant. As a unionist, she was active in the Penfield Education Association, where she became local president. She was a NYSUT Board member, then became special projects coordinator for NYSUT as a self-described “warrior for public education and civil rights.”
Basko was staff liaison for NYSUT’s flagship sponsorship of the statewide American Cancer Society Making Strides campaign, working at the Rochester walk even as she was in treatment for cancer.
A graduate of the NYSUT and AFL-CIO leadership institutes, Basko organized Picket in the Pines, NYSUT’s first statewide rally in the North Country, and the union’s Fair Trade outreach programs.
She worked with the NYSUT Civil and Human Rights Committee, helping to create the campaigns on “Start the Conversation,” addressing racial equality; and “Why in Five,” showing union action on educational justice, immigration reform, child labor protections, women’s rights, fair trade, and the fight to combat hunger and poverty.
As a child, Basko had cancer and attended Camp Good Days and Special Times in western New York. She remained a volunteer with the camp throughout her life. She died at age 43 on Dec. 29, 2016.
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