WEST ORANGE, NJ — On June 15, one week after the West Orange Rotary Club gave away more than $18,000 to local community organizations, its members gathered for a luncheon reception at Mayfair Farms to award $18,500 in scholarships to 17 college-bound students from West Orange High School and Seton Hall Prep.
According to Scholarship Award Committee member and Rotary Club President Peter Ricci, the money was raised for the scholarships by the club’s fundraising efforts throughout the year. Rotary’s Taste of the World fundraiser and concession stand at West Orange’s Fourth of July celebration provide the bulk of the scholarship funding.
“Every single penny we earn is given away; we don’t use any of it for expenses,” Ricci said at the event. “So if you’re at the fireworks this summer come see us, because that’s where this money comes from.”
Rotary Club member and former West Orange School District Superintendent Jerry Tarnoff kicked off the ceremony by presenting two WOHS students with special awards. Victoria Aquino won the Outstanding Foreign Language Student award, while Samantha Herbert was presented with the Outstanding Business Education Student award.
Aquino studies Chinese, takes Advanced Placement Chinese, and is a member of the Chinese Club and the Chinese Honor Society. In college, she plans to study foreign languages, culture and international relations.
Herbert also received a scholarship from the Rotary Club, in addition to the Outstanding Business Education Student Award. To win the award, Herbert distinguished herself by excelling in business classes like personal finance, marketing, and business organization and management. In the fall, she will attend Elon University in North Carolina to study accounting.
Megan Brill presented Seton Hall Prep senior Jordan La Mar with a scholarship at the event.
“Jordan has been the treasurer of the Jack and Jill Club as well as the co-chair of the Pingpong Club,” Brill said when introducing La Mar. “He has played football, run track, played pingpong and was part of the Future Business Leaders and Future Lawyers Club. He is employed as a caddy at the Rock Spring Country Club as well as a volunteer at the Turtle Back Zoo. I guess he does love to volunteer, which is truly what Rotary is all about.”
La Mar thanked his parents and SHP teachers as he accepted the scholarship.
“Without them my last two years of high school might not have gone as well as they did,” he said. “Hopefully the next four years go just as well.”
La Mar will attend Xavier University in Ohio in the fall.
Brill also awarded a scholarship to WOHS senior Kaycie Elifani, who wrote her application essay about breaking down barriers between ESL and monolingual students at the high school.
“Kaycie wrote she would create a program that would help break the barrier that separates WOHS students from ESL students,” Brill said. “She explained that she comes from an immigrant family and hears too often the struggles that her family and similar families have had with coming to a new country and especially a new school. Kaycie ended her essay by saying embracing our differences is crucial and far more positive than alienating one another based on our native language, which is truly what Rotary is all about.”
SHP seniors Simon and Jonathan Jenkins, who are twins, received awards from West Orange resident and Rotary Club member Elaine Davis.
“Sometimes the good kids are just plugging along, so it’s good to see them be recognized at something like this,” Davis said at the event before awarding the scholarships.
Both Simon and Jonathan Jenkins wrote their scholarship essays about the benefits of West Orange’s diversity. Simon Jenkins will attend Middlebury College in Vermont in the fall, and Jonathan Jenkins will be going to the University of Richmond in Virginia.
“I want to thank my brother and my mom, and Cynthia Hadley-Bailey, who made me apply,” Jonathan Jenkins said at the event, adding that Hadley-Bailey, a longtime Rotary member was “the one who put the application in my hand, so I have to thank her.”
Rotary Club member Mike Karu wore a baseball cap with the Ohio State University logo as he presented WOHS senior Gerard Tyler Eatman with a scholarship, to congratulate Eatman on attending his alma mater.
“In his essay, he explained how his parents grew up in single-parent homes in Newark without sufficient guidance while dealing with drug usage, racial profiling and urban violence,” Karu said of Eatman. “He will be attending my alma mater, Ohio State University, in the fall and aspires to a career in sports management and advertising.”
Ricci presented WOHS senior Jada Stanfield-Jones with a scholarship at the event.
“This young lady is an avid athlete who played softball until she couldn’t anymore,” Ricci said. “That didn’t keep her off the field, as she has served as team manager for the WOHS girls’ sports program for the past three years, devoting countless hours of her time to the other players.”
Stanfield-Jones, who will be attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., thanked Ricci for introducing her to the Rotary Club.
“Thank you for introducing me to the Rotary Club, because it’s taught me a lot about the kind of person that I want to be,” she said.
Other students who received scholarships included: WOHS seniors Desiree Rivera, Kassandra Michel, Kaela Hohn, Gabriella Cupo, Cameron Gart, Maxine Nzegwu, Matigan Kohlman and Jax Apollon, and SHP senior Nick Kriak.
“No matter how much I’ve accomplished, I always wonder how these kids do it,” Tarnoff told the West Orange Chronicle in an interview at the event. “This is always so heartwarming to see.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic