WEST ORANGE, NJ — Continuing its tradition of providing college scholarships to local college-bound high school seniors, the West Orange Rotary Club gifted $19,500 to 17 students from area schools at the club’s annual scholarship awards luncheon at Mayfair Farms on June 9.
The scholarship recipient selection process is a true labor of love for the Rotarians; once the applications are received and reviewed, the scholarship committee conducts interviews with candidates.
“We contact the schools in the vicinity that are likely to have West Orange residents attending, which includes in addition to West Orange High School, the private and religious schools in our immediate vicinity of Essex County,” Christos Alevras, the committee co-chairman, said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle. “We approach over half a dozen schools, Catholic schools, Hebrew schools, etc., and give them applications. We provide their guidance counselors with contact info for someone at the Rotary Club and all applications are gathered and the committee reviews them and then sets up interviews to determine who will receive the scholarships.”
This year, students from West Orange High School and Joseph Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston received the scholarships, and all expressed their thanks to the Rotary Club for choosing them, their family and classmates for supporting them, and their teachers and guidance counselors for encouraging them.
The Outstanding Business Education Student Award was given to WOHS student Noah Bruce and the Outstanding Foreign Language Student Award was given to WOHS student Deborah Alabi, who received the honor for her advanced proficiency in the study of Italian.
“I would like to thank my Italian teachers for allowing me to be immersed in another language and culture,” Alabi said during her acceptance speech at the event. “And I would also like to thank my family for letting me speak Italian around the house even though they didn’t understand what I was saying.”
Triplets Jonathan, Robert and Samuel Banks of West Orange High School each received a scholarship as well, and all three thanked their brothers and their family for pushing them to succeed both in and out of the classroom.
The fall will see the brothers heading separate ways: Robert Banks will head to Brandeis University to study business, Samuel Banks will head to Drexel University to study sports management and Jonathan Banks will head to Quinnipiac University to study journalism.
Robert Banks was the recipient of the Jeff Corba Memorial Scholarship, presented by Corba’s uncle, Rotary member Peter Horn, and Corba’s sister.
“I think that Jeff would have liked you,” Horn told Robert Banks as he presented him with the award at the event. “You both enjoy sports and music, although your classroom performance is very different than his.”
Corba was killed in a car accident in Wisconsin 10 years ago, and his family established a scholarship in his name through the Rotary Club. Though there are no specific criteria for the scholarship, they do try to select recipients who had similar goals and interests as did Corba.
Robert Banks’ guidance counselor nominated him and in his letter of recommendation praised the young man’s well-rounded set of activities, which include being a member of the National Honor Society, the National Science Honor Society, the National Music Honor Society, captain of the varsity soccer team, a member of the wind ensemble and a Mountaineer Mentor.
This year also marked the introduction of a new scholarship, the First Aid Scholarship, which was generously funded by the now-defunct West Orange First Aid Squad and was presented to West Orange High School student Bryce Millington.
Millington will be heading to University of Chicago in the fall on a pre-med track, with the goal of one day becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon. In addition to attaining a grade-point average of 4.5, Millington is also the vice president of the French Heritage Society, and was homecoming king at WOHS in 2016. In his acceptance speech, he thanked his parents for keeping him focused and not allowing him to have social media accounts.
Rotary Club member Michael Karu was instrumental in the establishment of the First Aid Squad Scholarship, which will be given annually to students who wish to pursue a career in medicine.
“When the township made the decision to cease operations for the first aid squad, I was speaking with Phil Froehlich, a longtime squad member, about what was going to happen to the monies that they had and he had commented that they didn’t know but they would start looking to worthwhile organizations because they still wanted to benefit the township,” Karu said in a recent phone interview with the Chronicle. “I mentioned to him that the Rotary Club has always been supportive of the first aid squad, so maybe we can do something with it, and this conversation was several years ago. I got a phone call a few months back that they were considering what to do with the money and would I come speak to them about the Rotary Club being a recipient of some of the funds.”
So Karu drafted a proposal about what the club intended to do with the funds and presented it to the WOFAS members, who then gave a significant amount of money to West Orange Rotary to endow a scholarship in the name of the former West Orange First Aid Squad.
“We consider ourselves as the preeminent service organization in West Orange, and we’re there to help anyone and everyone if we can. We take it seriously and do whatever we can to put money back into the community,” Karu said. “The conversations with the squad started several years ago, and I met with them at one of their board meetings to go over what we could accomplish and several months passed before I got a call from Phil. That’s what it’s all about. We spend all year raising the money so that the next year we can give it all away.”
Students receiving scholarships were: Jonathan Malek of Kushner, and from WOHS: Jonathan Banks, Robert Banks, Samuel Banks, Mariel Go, Roba Ahmed Hassan, Olivianne Iriarte, Makayla Jiggetts, Bryce Millington, Ivana Onubogu, Janiya Peters, Emma Scalora, Acacia Thunder Tam, Dyronda Vickers, Jane Wagner, Noah Bruce and Deborah Alabi.