NEWARK, NJ — The theme of this Essex County’s annual Women’s History Month Program this year was “Students Achieving Today – Our Leaders of Tomorrow.” During the March 29 event, held at the Hall of Records in Newark, 2019 Essex County Althea Gibson Leadership Awards were presented to Joelissa Ostine, a student at Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology; Lizbeth Parra, a student at the Donald M. Payne Sr. School of Technology; Bianca Alexandre, a student at Essex County Newark Tech School of Technology; and Johanna Navas, a student at Essex County College.
“Through their academic achievements and contributions to their local communities, these remarkable young women are on the road to success. Each is unique in their own way, having a profound impact on their schools. Striving for their goals and never letting anything stop them is part of what has driven them to reach the level of success that they have achieved thus far in their lives,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “These young women have made tremendous contributions and are establishing themselves as leaders of our future generations.”
Ostine, a senior at West Caldwell School of Technology, is a member of the school’s National Honor Society and consistently demonstrates the founding character traits of the organization. She has also played a vital role in all of the service activities sponsored by the West Caldwell Tech’s National Honor Society. Ostine is a peer tutor and assists students with various academic subjects. She plans to attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick in the fall and will be majoring in biology; Ostine hopes to pursue a career as an OB-GYN doctor.
“I want to thank my parents. By coming to this country they provided me with a better education, which has inspired me to pursue a career in medicine so I can help people. This award is empowering and inspires me to help other women,” Ostine said.
Parra, a senior at the Payne School of Technology, is in the law and public safety area of study. Parra is in the top 15 percent of her graduating class and has already participated in pre-college courses at Rutgers and Seton Hall. She has participated in the Model UN Club, Payne Transition Committee, indoor track and field team, outdoor track and field team, and SKillsUSA. Parra is also the recipient of numerous awards including honor roll, principal’s list, Sportsmanship Award, Payne Scholar and Bourlaug Scholar. She plans to attend Rutgers University and major in political science.
“I want to thank all the women who have supported me, especially my mother. They have showed me what it takes to succeed,” Parra said.
Alexandre, a senior at Newark Tech, is an outstanding student and participant in the Girls Who Code program. After learning about coding in the intensive seven-week program, Alexandre became a founder of the Girls Who Code Club at Newark Tech. She has also presented the website she created in the seven-week program at the headquarters of Girls Who Code in 2019 in front of a large audience, the CEO of Girls Who Code and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The live-streamed event has been viewed more than 70,000 times. In the summer of 2018, Alexandre was hired to be a summer intern at Prudential Financial as part of its Early Talent Identification Program. Alexandre plans to attend Rutgers University Business School as a management of information systems major.
“I am grateful for this recognition and thank my parents, teachers, superintendent and county executive for thinking of me for this honor. The challenges I have faced have made me stronger and have taught me to never give up,” Alexandre said.
Navas was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, and came to the United States at the age of 7. She attended First Avenue Middle School and graduated as salutatorian of her class. Navas went on to attend Technology High School, where she was inspired to pursue a career in architecture. At ECC, she thrives academically and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, currently serving as chapter president. She is active in several community organizations, including International Youth Fellowship and Jersey Cares. After graduating from ECC, she plans to attend Cornell University.
“Thank you for this recognition. I want to thank my parents; my accomplishments are your accomplishments. I will do my best to continue achieving in the future,” Navas said.