Jocelyn Willoughby and Charlotte O’Leary are ‘Essex Award’ recipients

Jocelyn Willoughby
Jocelyn Willoughby

Updated, Wed. May 25, 1:57 p.m.

The Men of Essex, Inc. selected basketball phenom Jocelyn Willoughby of Newark Academy and swimming phenom Charlotte O’Leary of Montclair High School to be the co- recipients of the 2016 “Essex Award.”

The 58th Annual Essex Awards Dinner was held May 20 at Appian Way Caterers located in Orange.

The Essex Award, an annual rite of spring in Essex County Scholastic circles, bestows highest distinction upon the leading scholar-athletes, and athletes, representing Essex County high schools (public, private and parochial). Presented by the Men of Essex, Inc., a service organization of African-American professionals and businessmen, the Essex Awards Dinner has become recognized statewide as a prestige salute to the “best and brightest” for the past 57 years.

From left, Charlotte O'Leary, keynote speaker and Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and Jocelyn Willoughby.
From left, Charlotte O’Leary, keynote speaker and Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and Jocelyn Willoughby.

The keynote speaker was Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a 2003 graduate of Columbia High School, 2007 graduate of Duke University, and former recipient of the ‘Essex Award.’ She is best known as the first Muslim woman who observes the hajib to qualify for the United States Olympic team.

Willoughby, an East Orange resident, was selected the N.J. Girls Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year; First Team All-State; First Team MSG Network All-N.J. Girls Basketball team; First Team All-Non-Public; First Team All-Prep B; First Team All-Conference (Liberty Division); First Team All-Senior; and 38th Annual NJ North-South All-Star Classic participant.

As a high school swimmer, O’Leary accumulated the following accolades: a three-time First Team All-State selection in the 100m Breaststroke; the four-time Essex County Champion (100m Breaststroke); the 200 Individual Medley (2016); the Montclair High School Team Record Holder in the 200m IM, 100m Breaststroke; the 200m MR, the 400m FR, and the 200m FR; the team’s Dual Meet Record holder – undefeated in the 100m Breaststroke; team Sectional Champion (2015) and finalist (2013, 2014 and 2016).