WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Rotary Club’s annual scholarship ceremony looked a little different this year.
The usual plan, when the world isn’t three months into a global pandemic–induced lockdown, is to gather at Mayfair Farms to honor graduating high school seniors from town and award them money to use for college. But with COVID-19 still keeping everyone at home, the Rotary Club hosted a Zoom meeting with all 17 honorees, still giving them a platform to celebrate the things they’ve accomplished over the last four years. Fifteen of the 17 seniors are West Orange High School students, one is from Seton Hall Prep and one is from Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School; combined, the students were awarded $15,500.
Evelyn Silva Herrera, from WOHS, won the Rotary’s Outstanding Foreign Language Student award, earning it by taking all honors Spanish classes in addition to AP Spanish. A member of the Spanish Club and Spanish Honor Society, Herrera was also a member of the WOHS Sign Language Club and has worked as a translator. She’ll be going to Montclair State University in the fall.
The Outstanding Business Education award went to WOHS’ Emily Baker, who will be going to Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in the fall. In addition to being president of the Future Business Leaders of America club, Baker played soccer and was a Mountaineer Mentor. She was also a member of the English, social studies and art honor societies.
“The WOHS business classes are definitely what made me want to pursue a career in business,” Baker said at the event.
WOHS student Massimo McCormick is another student who received a scholarship at the event. Introduced by Rotary Club member Peter Ricci, McCormick is graduating in the top 20 percent of the Class of 2020. He was on the swim, track and tennis teams, in addition to being a member of the marching and jazz bands. He’ll be studying biomedical engineering at Clarkson University in the fall.
“Thank you to the Rotary Club,” McCormick said at the event. “I appreciate you all still doing this with all the craziness going on in the world.”
Ricci also introduced WOHS student Ismail Taylor-Kamara, who was the captain of the Mountaineers basketball team, in addition to being a member of the track team and Unity Club. In the fall he’ll be going to Temple University to study media and television production.
“It really speaks to what West Orange is all about,” Taylor-Kamara said at the event about the Rotary scholarships. “I really appreciate everything the Rotary is all about.”
Noam Nissel, a senior at Kushner, was introduced by Rotary Club member Mike Karu. Nissel was on his school’s mock trial, debate and volleyball teams, and has volunteered with Friendship Circle. He’ll be majoring in architecture at Northeastern University in the fall.
“Your diligence and passion makes a difference in this world,” Nissel told the Rotarians. “The scholarship will help me worry less about my financial situation and will allow me to grow my passions and interests.”
Other students who were awarded scholarships include Johan Atwell, Meghan Ford-Titus, Simone Byun, Angelyne Silverio, Michael Charles, Mark Mincolelli, Christyne Corasmin, Imani Miller, Ruth Donagher, Nadia La Mar and Jackson Edwards from WOHS, and Luke Gaccione from SHP.
Seniors have to apply for scholarships and go through an interview process with Rotary Club members. They also need recommendations from teachers and their guidance counselor, which scholarships chairperson Megan Brill said the students often don’t see.
“Those are things that you don’t necessarily know that they think and say about you,” she said. “So it’s great to be able to hear it here.”