County celebrates Women’s History Month by shining a light of students

Photo Courtesy of Essex County
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., back and center, honors students, from left, Alicia Augustin, Samantha Arias, Katreena Deodatt and Ines Kenfack Donfack.

NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. hosted the county’s annual Women’s History Month Program at the Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Building on Wednesday, March 30. The theme of this year’s ceremony was “Students Achieving Today — Our Leaders of Tomorrow.” During the ceremony, 2022 Essex County Althea Gibson Leadership Awards were presented to students Alicia Augustin from the Essex County Donald Payne Sr. School of Technology, Samantha Arias from Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology, Katreena Deodatt from Essex County Newark Tech School of Technology and Ines Kenfack Donfack from 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,” DiVincenzo said. “These young women have made tremendous contributions and are establishing themselves as leaders of our future generations.”

A Newark Tech, Deodatt is co-captain of the varsity debate team, the No. 1 policy debater in New Jersey and a national qualifier in speech and debate. She also serves as the president of Student Council and National Honor Society, and is enrolled in Newark Tech’s TEAL Center, which will enable her to earn both her high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time. She serves as a senior mentor to 12 current freshmen. Last school year, she was an ambassador for the Cares Mentoring Program, which centers on addressing the emotional, social and physical well-being of students. She also is part of the morning announcement crew.

“Thank you for this opportunity. I stand here as a young woman but I am representative of all the young women at Newark Tech. I want to thank my family and my mother who taught me that your mind is your greatest tool,” Deodatt said.

Augustin, a senior at Payne Tech, is part of the Payne Scholars, a selective program funded by the Payne Foundation in which students take college courses in government and politics. Augustin has a grade-point average of 4.4, has been named an AP Scholar and an African American Recognition Scholar by the college board, and is a finalist for the Ron Brown Scholarship and a semifinalist for the national Jackie Robinson scholarship. In addition, she is captain of the girls varsity soccer team and the Mock Trial Club, which won the county competition due to her leadership. Augustin gave back to her school community by spending her most recent summer developing curriculum and teaching Essex County middle school students in the Essex County Schools of Technology District’s inaugural Mock Trial Summer Camp. She also is a senior mentor, providing a group of freshmen emotional and academic support as they navigate through their first year at Payne Tech.

“Thank you so much for this award. I thank my family for their support, especially my mother, who is the strongest woman in my life. She always motivates me. I am so grateful to thrive at the Donald Payne School and take advantage of all its programs,” Augustin said.

Arias, a junior at West Caldwell Tech, spends her time volunteering at the Wild Bird Fund in New York City and working with other environmental organizations, such as Clean Ocean Action and Save Coastal Wildlife. At school, Arias is vice president of the Gay–Straight Alliance and a member of the National Honor Society. She has a passion for music, leading the children’s choir at her local church, and singing at school events and parades that honor her Latin American roots; Arias sang the national anthem at the March 30 awards ceremony. Arias aspires to use her voice in order to make way for other women of color in STEM and the performing arts.

“I want to be an image for women in science because, as I was growing up, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” Arias said.

Kenfack Donfack is a student at Essex County College, where she is studying biology and pre-medicine, with aspirations to become a physician. Kenfack Donfack, who is originally from Douala, Cameroon, is a Newark Tech graduate. At ECC, she is treasurer of the Biology/Pre-Medicine Club, and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Essex Chemical Society. She also serves as a math, biology and chemistry tutor for other students at the ECC Learning Center.

“Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me, especially during the transition from high school to college during the pandemic. All the leadership has helped me grow into the woman I am today,” Kenfack Donfack said.