BARNEGAT, NJ - The concept focuses on a positive and important message. The Barnegat Board of Education believes that UPstander students deserve recognition. Contrary to bystanders, UPstanders inspire others with acts of kindness within their schools. Barnegat High School Vice Principal Michelle Johns announced the last of the 2019 recipients at the December Board of Education meeting.

The UPstander initiative began during the 2018-2019 school year. Faculty members nominate individual students for the award on a monthly basis. Each of the schools within the district selects a representative. In December, the focus was on recognizing a commitment to acting responsibly.

One of the premises of the UPstander awards includes an acknowledgment of the role families play in daily interaction. To promote family togetherness, UPstanders receive a gift card to a local eatery.  Sweet Jenny’s sponsored the meals for this month’s award recipients.

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Barnegat High School Junior Robert Armstrong was named as the December 2019 Barnegat High School UPstander award winner. He was unable to attend the Board of Education meeting because he was at sports practice.

“Robert shows responsibility and is a valuable role model at Barnegat High School,” said Johns. She then proceeded to tell a story illustrating the basis for his selection.  Somewhere along the lines, Robert earned the nickname of “Moose Armstrong.”

“A few weeks ago, Robert went to our teacher of the “multiply disabled” or MD class at Barnegat High School, “Johns shared. “He said that he’d like to make goodie bags for the students in the class one day.”

After receiving permission to do so from MD teacher Kevin Peters, “Moose” came into the classroom and “hung out:” with the students. ‘He created an amazing surprise for them with goodie bags,” continued Johns.

According to Johns, Peters remarked on how awesome it was to see the kindness model come full circle within the MD classroom. “Peters said it was a testament to the students that a well-known football player stopped in to do nice things. Kindness matters.”

At the Russell O. Brackman Middle School, sixth-grader Qua’sir Askew was honored as the school’s UPstander recipient. Johns read from notes indicating that “Qua’sir shows responsibility in a number of ways.

“He’s always responsible at the end of every art period, whether it’s cleaning up his own supplies or assisting others,” Johns said. “Qua’sir ensures that the other students around him understand the project and offers his assistance if they do not.”

As the UPstander recipient for the Township’s middle school, the sixth grader demonstrates other acts of kindness when it comes to his classmates. “He is the type of student who feels a responsibility for other students and makes sure everyone is included in the group.”

Fourth grader Isabella Lutcza received the distinction as Cecil S. Colin’s Elementary School UPstander award winner. “Isabella was chosen because she displays qualities of a responsible, dependable, helpful, and kind young lady,” shared Johns. “She shows up every morning with a smile on her face and promptly follows all classroom procedures.”

According to the nomination received from Colin’s School, Isabella is always on top of her work and completes it all. “She takes ownership and accountability for everything she does,” Johns read. “Isabella takes great pride in her daily achievements and even takes responsibility for the well-being and feelings of other people.”

Johns next acknowledged fifth grader Anthony J. Abello as the UPstander selected by the Joseph T. Donahue Elementary School. “Anthony frequently demonstrates his responsibility and commitment to modeling UPstander behavior in school,” Johns said. “His respect for fair play and inclusion for all is outstanding.”

“During recess especially, Anthony will always include a way to include others, even if teams are established and a game is already underway,” continued Johns. “If for any reason there are kids who want to join in and are not readily accommodated, Anthony will lead the group to play a different game with the newcomers.”

Johns went on to quote what others have observed of the fifth-grade student. “He’s been heard to say that if we can’t all play, no one should play.”

From the Lillian M. Dunfee Elementary School, fifth grader Joshua Kozak received recognition with an UPstander presentation. “Joshua shows responsibility and forward behavior all the time,” Johns shared. “He is a great role model for the younger “Dunfee Dragons.”

According to Dunfee school representatives, the school actually received an email from a parent commending Joshua’s respectful actions while on his post as a safety patrol officer. “It is fitting for him to receive the UPstander award.”

The third fifth grader to receive UPstander recognition was Paige Mairowicz as a representative of the Robert L. Horbert Elementary School. “Paige is a responsible member of Horbert’s safety patrol and leader-in-training,” Johns shared. “She has been very instrumental in helping out younger students this year.”

Johns elaborated by saying that Paige walks kindergartners to the buses at dismissal time. “On her free time, she helps Mrs. Gallagher’s second grade class,” said Johns. “She always has a smile on her face.”

As 2019 comes to an end, Barnegat UPstanders remain strong in becoming the best versions of themselves and helping others.

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at