BARNEGAT, NJ - It’s a regular event at the monthly Board of Education meetings. Students nominated for UPstander awards receive a special acknowledgement. In a sense, they become a class of their own. The recognition sends out a positive message of appreciation and comes with a special gift.
UPstanders are nominated by faculty and administration from each of the Barnegat schools. While many awards focus on academics or sports achievements, this honor comes with a different message. Essentially, UPstander students demonstrate a willingness to help others with acts of kindness. They are not bystanders.
“The upstanding students are committed to making Barnegat a better place,” shared Barnegat High School Vice Principal Michelle Johns.
When the concept was initially introduced last year, it caught fire. The Barnegat Police Department partakes in the student presentations. Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain is either there himself – or sends a representative. Local businesses lend their support.
Naples Restaurant donated $50 gift certificates to each of the most recent award winners. The hope is that the students will all enjoy dining out with their families.
Johns offered commentary regarding each of the six students nominated for UPstander awards. She began with Charlee Calogero, a third-grader at the Lillian M. Dunfee Elementary School.
“Charlee is always willing to help her teachers and classmates, and even her community,” Johns said. “While working on our thankful writing pieces back in November, Charlee felt inspired to do something for others.”
According to Johns, Charlee reflected on all the things she was thankful for and came up with the idea of a food drive. The third-grader was eager to help the community and wanted to make a nice Thanksgiving for families who could not afford the celebration.
“With the help of Charlee’s family and the students in her class, they were able to donate tons of food to the Barnegat Food Pantry,” continued Johns.
Caroline Sullivan, a senior at Barnegat High School, received recognition as the high school’s UPstander candidate. She was not only acknowledged as a valued role model but also as a caring and involved student.
In her final year in the Barnegat schools, Caroline is active in creating the high school yearbook. Most recently, Caroline helped organize and hold the school pep rally.
“Caroline leads by example and is a leader herself in the classroom and in the community,” Johns shared. “She shows every student what it truly is to be a Barnegat High School Bengal.”
The Russell O. Brackman Middle School designated Jane Haviland as their UPstander representative. Jane is an eighth-grade student.
In reading from the nomination naming Jane, Johns said she was selected because of several positive character traits. More specifically, the eighth-grader demonstrates responsibility, as well as a caring and empathetic nature. She also has a compassionate spirit.
“Janes is the captain of the Brackman Dance Team and the secretary of the Honor Society,” said Johns. “She is an integral part of the New Jersey Honor Society.
According to Johns, Jane shows leadership qualities when working with fellow dance team members. She is both supportive and caring to her teammates.
“Jane also played an important role in the “ROBMS Needy Family Drive,” Johns continued. “Her kindness and compassion when she assisted the advisors and chose thoughtful gift selections.”
Second-grader Alec Sauer received the UPstander designation from the Cecil S. Collins Elementary School. He was applauded as a kind and considerate young man who also demonstrates empathy and focuses on stands up for what is right.
“An UPstander is someone who recognizes something is wrong and acts to make it right,” said Johns. “During class, Alec is always willing to lend classmates a hand with projects. He is also a socially responsible person.”
The Joseph T. Donahue Elementary School named fourth-grader Reilly Baffuto as its UPstander representative. According to the nomination, Reilly is a consistent role model of UPstander behavior for her classmates.
“Reilly is always kind, caring, respectful, and responsible,” Johns read. “She often goes to help both her peers and her teachers – even before she’s asked to do so.”
The fourth-grader was praised for her diligence as a student. “She’s just as responsible for caring for others as she is a successful student,” continued Johns.
Another Barnegat second grader also received recognition as an UPstander. Bria James earned the distinction from the Robert L. Horbelt Elementary School.
According to Johns, Bria is a kind and caring student, who is always very helpful to her peers and teachers. She was commended for many acts of kindness, with one in particular highlighted.
“One of our staff members noticed Bria helping a student with special needs during computer class,” shared Johns. “Bria was noted as being super nice and helpful to the student, who seemed very happy.”
Each of the UPstander award recipients was congratulated personally by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis, Board of Education President Michael Hickey, and Police Chief Keith Germain.