Achieve thanks volunteer tutors at awards ceremony

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — On Tuesday, June 7, the Achieve Foundation gathered to celebrate its volunteers at the Achieve Volunteer Tutor Appreciation Reception. The Achieve Foundation of South Orange & Maplewood is a nonprofit organization that promotes high-quality education that prepares local students for the future. For more information, visit

“It was truly a gift to be able to hold the reception in person at the Columbia High School library for the first time since 2019. There was so much good energy in the room,” Achieve Executive Director Eileen Collins Neri said. 

Board of Education member and Achieve liaison Arun Vadlamani welcomed the attendees and spoke of how beneficial the program was in supporting local students during this especially challenging year as they returned to in-person learning. Assemblywoman Mila Jasey was unable to attend the event but shared Senate and General Assembly Joint Legislative resolutions with each award winner, recognizing their commitment to the Achieve Volunteer Tutor Program. Unaccompanied Minors, the Columbia High School a cappella group, entertained the attendees as an added treat.

This past school year, more than 300 volunteer tutors worked with K-12 SOMSD students by supporting them both academically and socially during weekly sessions. They reinforced class lessons, helped with assignments and homework, supported organizational and time management skills, and more. 

“Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of our Achieve volunteer tutors who have shown great commitment, flexibility, maturity and patience during this challenging school year. This program could not be possible without you,” program manager Shannon Kirk said. 

While the goal of the evening was to celebrate all program volunteers, the event also included some special recognitions. Award recipients included tutors who were nominated by Achieve site supervisors and selected by an awards committee.

The Kohl Angelo Award, established in memory of the Maplewood Middle School student who died 10 years ago, is given to an outstanding middle school tutor. Kohl’s parents were on hand to help present this year’s awards to Santos Garner of South Orange Middle School, Gracie Klein of MMS and “Rising Star” Harper Anderson, a fifth-grader.

The Dubrow Awards are named for the late David Dubrow, a longtime champion of the Achieve Volunteer Tutor Program. This year’s winners were Silas Epstein, Gianna Forrester, Isabel Hahr, Eli Hakim, Lauren Kasdan, Sierra Mannion, Malachy Meyer, Susan Pendleton, Holden Reeves and Maia Romanowsky. Fran Dubrow helped honor these 10 outstanding tutors.

The following 29 students received Super Seniors Awards for graduating tutors who volunteered with Achieve for three or more years: Emma Booker-Dodd, Layla Brisset, Marina Chernin, Zoe Ferguson, Ben Fuhrman, Dylan Gill, Isioma Grant, Jackson Kondak, Emily Lopez, Sydney Mannion, Violet McEwan, Priya Pai, Nina Panzer, Jadyn Park, Lucy Parry, Seth Peiris, Lila Promisel, Cassandra Ratkevich, Calliope Reeves, Elodie Reeves, Ashakiran Rochette, Kate Rohan, Sarah Schneider, Tyler Stephan, Ryan Thomas, Katie Trzaska, Oren Van Allen, Addie Wiener and Alex Yang.

Finally, six students were recognized as Distinguished Super Seniors. They are graduating tutors with more than three years of service who were also nominated for Dubrow Awards: Ava Byrd, Ella Cervi, Aidan Cunningham, Brianna Lucas, Courtney Plaza and Kaia Thewell.

Photos Courtesy of Shannon Kirk