ELIZABETH, NJ – Mayor J. Christian Bollwage looked at the five honorees from the podium of the Snyder Academy, Oct. 20, and said, “All of these individuals have contributed greatly to the success of the City of Elizabeth.”

The occasion was the second Annual Snyder Academy Awards that recognizes the achievements and contributions of five individuals the following in the categories: Education,  Chessie Roberts; Social Services, Sister Judy Mertz; Economic Development, George Vlahos; Arts, Charlotte Brown; and History, Aimee Fernandez-Puente.

The evening included a cocktail reception, dinner, awards program, and an auction. Kristen Shaughnessy Bush, a NY1 news anchor, served as the master of ceremonies.

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The honorees were chosen for their dedication to the welfare of the community. Chessie Roberts is a well-known educator who has been a guiding force and mentor to generations of students. 

As executive director of Josephine’s Place, a storefront women's center, Sister Judy A. Mertz has been serving the needs of women in an economically challenged area who often have little or no knowledge of available resources.

George Valhos located his new restaurant Urban Griddle on the same site as his family owned Olympia diner on Route 1 & 9. He believes that it is up to restaurant owners to improve the neighborhoods where they do business. George also started a restaurant school in partnership with Charlotte Brown of the United Youth of NJ.

Brown founded a  non-profit, United Youth of New Jersey, working with at-risk youths, seeking to educate youth on their heritage.

Aimee Fernandez-Puente, Library Associate, has been saving Elizabeth’s history. She has been managing the Local History and Special Collections Department since 2014.