It has been a year full of unprecedented changes: the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in countless ways, bringing about many firsts as we all adapt to ever-changing circumstances. In spite of the pandemic, West Orange High School found a way to honor the accomplishments of the high school’s graduating senior class and continue its longstanding tradition of hosting an annual Senior Awards Night: by shifting this year’s awards ceremony online.

For the sixth year in a row on Senior Awards Night, the West Orange Scholarship Fund (WOSF) has presented graduating West Orange High School seniors with the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship—a scholarship established by Lisa and Donald Shauger in 2014. Founded in memory of former West Orange police officer Timothy Groves, a friend of the Shaugers who passed away in 2013 from cancer, the scholarship recognizes students with a passion for community service and an interest in law.

During this year’s West Orange High School’s Senior Awards Night virtual ceremony, which was held on June 3, the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship was awarded to 14 scholarship recipients: Mariela Alvarez, Victoria Benaroya, Kailey Charles, Destiny Chatman, Olivia Davino, Natchenly Fleurisma, Lillian Itty, Bryanna Jackson-Dickens, Carolina La Torre, Julian Lee, Naomi Moss, Kyle Neverson, Sophia Scholz, and Salome Valencia.

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“We were thrilled that West Orange High School and the West Orange Scholarship Fund were able to make the best of the situation during the pandemic and put together something special for this year's senior class,” said Lisa Shauger, president/CEO of The Shauger Group. “It was a wonderful ceremony to honor the seniors’ accomplishments—one that will make this year’s graduation and awards season special for this year’s seniors, despite the fact they were not able to enjoy the evening in person.”

In his address to the senior class during the virtual ceremony, West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore commended West Orange students for their achievements this year, especially in the face of the unique challenges posed by COVID-19.

“We’ve never had a senior awards night quite like this before—and may never again—but we refuse to let this event go by without acknowledging your dedication, study, focus, and accomplishments,” said Moore. “Nothing can eradicate your efforts, diminish your importance, or strip this moment from you.”

With COVID-19 restrictions easing up as the New York metropolitan area follows its phased reopening plans, West Orange High School currently plans to hold an in-person graduation with a “modified on-site ceremony” on July 8; the high school also held a drive-by celebration and virtual graduation ceremony on June 23.

This year’s group of 14 Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship recipients was the largest in a single year to date. Including this year’s class of Groves Memorial Scholars, a total of 49 students have been awarded the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship since the scholarship was initially founded in September 2014.

Each year, the WOSF committee considers applicants for the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship based on their academic record, financial need, and extracurricular involvement. Because of Officer Groves’ lifelong commitment to community service and volunteerism, special consideration is given to students who share his passion for philanthropy—and while recipients are not required to have careers planned in law enforcement or criminal justice, it is fitting when they share Officer Groves’ interest in law, justice, and service.

A few of this year’s Groves Memorial Scholarship recipients were also awarded additional scholarships at Senior Awards Night, including the Codey Family Scholarship, Marie Demaio Scholarship, Sharmila Desai Scholarship, William Martini Scholarship, Louise Spitz Lehman Scholarship, and Dr. Philip Congilose Scholarship.

More than 120 total awards were given out at Senior Awards Night; of those, over 45 awards were presented by the WOSF. The WOSF awarded $75,800 in sum at Senior Awards Night 2020, to 73 different seniors.

Since its inception in 1923, the WOSF has never missed a year of awarding student scholarships. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the WOSF has distributed over $1.5 million in scholarships—benefiting more than 1,600 students—to date.

In a message to Donald and Lisa Shauger, WOSF Treasurer Jim Quinn said that the WOSF was “honored by [the Shaugers’] continued support of the Fund.”

“Our Awards Committee worked very closely with the WOHS Administration in an attempt to make this year’s Senior Awards Night special for our graduating seniors considering the coronavirus restrictions in place,” said Quinn. “We will be forever thankful for [the Shaugers’] support in helping us make college just a little more affordable for our graduating seniors.”

The Shauger family and The Shauger Group raised over $15,000 to benefit the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship this past year, most of which was raised in December when the Shaugers and The Shauger Group teamed up with the WOSF and West Orange Education Foundation (WOEF) to host the second annual Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser Raffle. In past years, The Shauger Group has also partnered with the WOSF and WOEF to hold other fundraiser raffles and dinners to support the scholarship.

To support the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship this coming year, Donald and Lisa Shauger have pledged a $10,000 donation. The donation will be in memory of all West Orange residents who have died from COVID-19, as well as in honor of the class of 2020.

“It is a meaningful tribute to Timmy that a scholarship fund in his name is helping the West Orange community and providing great opportunities to local students,” said Donald Shauger, executive vice president of The Shauger Group. “He was a pillar of the local community—he made a difference in any way he could, from mentoring local youths to volunteering with Special Olympics. He would be proud of the scholarship’s success and the impact it has made. It is such a privilege and honor for Lisa and me to keep Timmy’s memory alive and, at the same time, to help seniors further their education.”

Donations benefiting the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship can be made at any time. Donations can be made via check, payable to the West Orange Scholarship Fund (noting “Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship” in the memo), and mailed to West Orange Scholarship Fund, c/o Jim Quinn, 23 Witte Place, West Orange, NJ 07052. Donations to the WOSF are also accepted online via PayPal, through the WOSF page here on the West Orange Board of Education website.

 

About the 2020 Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship Recipients

Mariela Alvarez: Alvarez loves to help people and make a difference in the community, always giving her best in all she does. Alvarez volunteered at Don Bosco Prep’s 2019 summer camp; throughout high school, she also gave her time helping with West Orange High School car washes, as well as at Daughters of Israel, a skilled nursing facility. A member of the Spanish Honor Society, Alvarez tutored students in Spanish. On Senior Awards Night, Alvarez was also awarded the Marie Demaio Scholarship and the Sharmila Desai Scholarship.

Victoria Benaroya: Philanthropic at heart, Benaroya hopes to become a lawyer so that she can advocate for those in society who are underrepresented. Benaroya’s leadership and community service include over 60 hours with Mountaineer Mentorship Program; she was also a Model United Nations delegate, a member of the debate team, and a lacrosse player. She was part of the Spanish National Honor Society as both secretary and treasurer, as well as the National Honor Society and the Social Studies Honor Society. Benaroya also received the William Martini Scholarship on Senior Awards Night.

Kailey Charles: A well-rounded student committed to academics, athletics, and extracurriculars, Charles was a member of both the National Honor Society and English Honor Society. Charles ran cross-country for three years and also participated as a conflict resolution mediator in Restorative Justice, a mediation program that helps students find an alternative to punishment. Her extensive community service involvement included the Mountaineer Mentorship Program and Interact Club, a club sponsored by Windermere Rotary that offers a variety of volunteer opportunities.

Destiny Chatman: A diligent and resilient student, Chatman worked hard in the face of adversity to accomplish her goals—and follow her dreams—while at West Orange High School. Chatman’s writing has been published, and she has received a creativity award for it. She also works hard outside of the classroom, working both at after-school daycare and, during summertime, at Jewish Community Center MetroWest’s Camp Deeny Riback.

Olivia Davino: With an interest in pursuing a career in the FBI, Davino will study criminal justice. Davino volunteered at Daughters of Israel, as well as at St. John’s Soup Kitchen. Active athletically, Davino played softball, volleyball, and soccer at West Orange High School.

Natchenly Fleurisma: Originally from Haiti, Fleurisma was so determined to learn English as quickly as possible that she checked out books in English from the West Orange Public Library every week: thanks to her resourcefulness, positive attitude, work ethic, and focus, as well as her knack for adapting to all types of situations, she successfully achieved her goal. She will be the first person in her family to attend college in the U.S.

Lillian Itty: A highly accomplished and conscientious student, Itty took a rigorous schedule of Honors and AP classes and was a member of Science National Honor Society. Itty’s impressive resume of leadership experience includes the Summer Enrichment Program and Mountaineer Mentorship Program; she also served as a Special Education lunch mentor and Restorative Justice mentor. Itty volunteered at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and at her church. In her post–high school plans, she intends to study law.

Bryanna Jackson-Dickens: Sharing Officer Groves’s passion for helping others, Jackson-Dickens volunteered on the Board of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation, an organization that enhances the lives of underserved children, advocates teen driving safety, and fosters a love of music; at the West Orange Public Library, where she helped with children’s activities; at her church; and at voter registration drives. A four-year varsity track athlete, Jackson-Dickens competed at the New Balance Nationals, a high school national track and field invitational championship meet organized by the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation. At Senior Awards Night, she also won the Louse Spitz Lehman Scholarship.

Carolina La Torre: Much like Officer Groves, La Torre is firmly committed to community service: she helped with her church’s children’s program, and also volunteered for two summers at Playhouse Preschool. An animal lover, La Torre has volunteered at both Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter and Millburn Veterinary Hospital. While at West Orange High School, La Torre belonged to the Spanish Club, Italian Club, Sports Medicine Club, and the Junior Statesmen of America.

Julian Lee: Lee plans to study criminal justice and law in college, where he has a goal of earning all A’s and B’s. A leader on the field, Lee was co-captain of the baseball team during his junior year at West Orange High School and captain during his senior year. Julian worked as a camp counselor at West Orange Community House and was a member of North Jersey Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, an organization with a mission of fostering the youth development and nurturing future African American leaders. Lee was also selected for the Codey Family Scholarship and Dr. Philip Congilose Scholarship on Senior Awards Night.

Naomi Moss: A dedicated athlete, Moss ran on both the indoor and outdoor track teams. She will join her two older brothers in college, while remaining local in a responsible effort to help keep costs down for her family.

Kyle Neverson: Because of his strong passion for technology, Neverson intends to pursue a career in cybersecurity. He is inspired by the limitless possibilities of technology: he believes technology is revolutionary in its ability to help people, and, through cybersecurity, he hopes to study ways to help all people and all levels of law enforcement.

Sophia Scholz: A hardworking, committed, and highly accomplished student, Scholz belonged to four National Honor Societies. A varsity softball player, Scholz was a Mountaineer Mentor and also volunteered at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

Salome Valencia: Valencia is an accomplished competitive dancer: she won the World Latin Dance Competition. Valencia puts one hundred percent effort into everything she does: her dedication, resilience, and conscientiousness helped her to achieve her goals while at West Orange High School.