MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Columbia High School Scholarship Fund kicked off its fundraising for the year at the sixth annual Red and Black Party at the Maplewood Club on Sept. 22, raising money to award scholarships to CHS graduates to help fund their post-secondary education. The organization has awarded $1.2 million in scholarships to 986 students in the last 10 years and in 2018 awarded 114 students $158,000 in financial aid. In addition to awarding scholarships to graduating seniors, the CHSSF also funds CHS alumni education.
“We’re all different, but we all want our students to succeed,” CHSSF President Madeline Tugentman said at the event. “That’s one thing that we have in common.”
According to information provided by the CHSSF, 2018 scholarship awardees attend New York University, Seton Hall University, Rutgers University, Smith College, Cornell University, Penn State, Johns Hopkins University, Spelman College and Berklee College of Music. Approximately 37 percent of those students are studying STEM, 18 percent are in a health-related field, 10 percent are studying arts, 8 percent are studying business or finance, 6 percent are studying criminal justice and 4 percent are studying education.
One student who has benefited from the CHSSF is Belinda Silverne, a 2012 CHS graduate studying architecture at the New York Institute of Technology. Currently in the final year of a five-year architecture program at NYIT, Silverne started out at Union County College before transferring.
“It helped,” Silverne said of the assistance she received from the CHSSF in an interview with the News-Record at the event. “School is expensive. There’s tuition and transportation and books, so I’m grateful.”
When she graduates in the spring, she hopes to find a job at an architecture firm to gain the hours required to obtain her license in New Jersey and New York City.
“Once I actually start making money I want to give back and help people like they helped me,” Silverne said, adding that she wants to donate to the CHSSF when she is able. “I want to give back to my community. It’s become a family, because they’ve motivated me to do better in school and make them proud.”
CHSSF has help in raising money for scholarships from local sponsors, so that all the money raised at the Red and Black Party goes toward the fund. Synergy HomeCare Metro & Hudson New Jersey, which provides home care for senior citizens in the area, was one sponsor and owner David Katz was at the reception.
“It definitely helps people who need the money and goes to a good place,” Katz said in an interview with the News-Record at the event. “We’re in the neighborhood, so we wanted to be a part of that. It’s very touching to see people who need it get a push in the right direction from the community.”
Tugentman honored Joan Lee at the event, a past president of the CHSSF who died earlier this year.
“She was the most dedicated person I ever met; she was a force,” Tugentman said. “People didn’t say no to her. Her legacy goes on in her children and grandchildren, but also in the lives of the students she helped.”
CHSSF Vice President Brigid Casey said at the fundraiser that the work the organization does speaks for itself.
“What I love about it is we work hard and get support from all over,” Casey said in an interview with the News-Record at the event. “We’ve been around so long and people trust us with their money and that it will go toward scholarships.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic and Courtesy of Steve Tugentman