“Warrior For Life” is a slogan that can be found on the back of Franklin High School t-shirts and heard in the huddles of Franklin’s finest athletes. But for some residents, it’s more than a slogan. It is a lifestyle that they’ve chosen to carry out well beyond their high school halls. This year, the Warrior for Life Scholarship Foundation will recognize two residents who have done exactly that.
MacAfee Road School Principal Bill Grippo and Board of Education President Nancy LaCorte have both been chosen for the “Warrior For Life” Awards by a panel of 22 foundation members based on their dedication to the Franklin community and commitment to local community service.
The Warrior For Life Scholarship Foundation was founded in 2017 to generate scholarship funds for Franklin High School Students and build a positive network of Franklin Alumni. In addition to over $10,000 in scholarships to Franklin High School seniors and recent alumni, two “Warrior For Life” award winners are selected annually from a large pool of local candidates.
“With this award in particular, we want to celebrate the members of our community who are selflessly making a difference in Franklin and are really working to embody what ‘Warrior For Life’ means,” Rebekah Solomon, co-founder of the Warrior for Life Scholarship Foundation and Vice Principal of Franklin High School, told TAPinto. “Both individuals we are honoring this year exhibited an exceptional degree of community service within the Franklin community for our education programs, for the arts communities, and for our families, and have done so for a number of years. I couldn’t even begin to list everything they’ve done for Franklin.”
William ‘Bill’ Grippo, who has been an administrator in the district since 1977 and was previously the Principal of Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School, is currently the principal of MacAfee Road School.
As a principal, he has consistently found ways to drive passion for knowledge and excitement for positive behavior among his students. Since arriving at MacAfee Road, he’s been duct-taped to cafeteria walls to raise school funds and gotten pied in the face to incentivize good reading habits. In 2014, Grippo went as far as spending the night on the roof of his elementary school to motivate his K-4 students to read a total of 20,000 books.
In addition to his roles within Franklin Township public schools, Grippo is also a key fundraiser within Franklin’s art and cultural communities.
In the late 1980s, Grippo led a fundraising campaign to save the then-shut down Villagers Theatre, rebuild it from the inside out, and to make it into the cultural cornerstone it is today. He has continually supported the success and upkeep of the theater, most recently through his participation in the theater’s Yellow Brick Road fundraising campaign.
Grippo annually extends his knack for fundraising to Franklin Township’s Fourth of July Fireworks show. The work he does each year allows the tradition to continue at no cost to tax payers.
Alongside members of the Franklin Township Cultural Arts Council, Grippo recently worked to raise over $35,000 for the construction of the new gazebo within the township municipal complex, which now stands just beside the Franklin Township Public Library. Completed earlier this summer, the structure will now serve as a space for local performances and entertainment.
“The new gazebo is a tangible addition to our community that will benefit our community for years to come,” Solomon said. "We as a community are so grateful for his work on that project."
When writing his initial thoughts on the prestigious recognition, Grippo emphasized feelings of pride, loyalty, and gratitude towards Franklin, and shared that his personal mission statement has always been “Enhancing Community life in Franklin Township”.
“I have always been proud of our school system and have done everything I possibly could in promoting its image and the value of its rich diversity,” Grippo wrote. “I am proud to have served in so many various roles, both volunteer and professional. Certainly proud to have made a positive impact in so many areas of community life.”
Nancy LaCorte, who has served on the Board of Education since 2006, was elected as Board President in January. She expresses great excitement for the future Franklin Township public schools, and in her Board President’s Message, LaCorte vowed to “continue to embrace our diversity, foster excellent educational innovation and empower all students to achieve their fullest potential.”
Since being elected into the role, LaCorte has worked to strengthen the problem-solving and teamwork capacities of the Board of Education, helping the administration to “play nice in the sand box”. She confidently took on the challenges of a rather unsteady Franklin High School administration, along with the latest transition of Franklin’s public elementary and intermediate schools, which is referred to as the “One Less Move” plan.
LaCorte has a consistent track record of channeling her energy to help others and making herself part of a solution. She was recently honored as one of ten 2018 Outstanding Women in Somerset County for her volunteerism.
“Everyone matters,” LaCorte told TAPinto. “Everyone. Every kid should matter. Your next door neighbor who is 85 years old should matter. Where you live should matter.”
In addition to the hours she has spent volunteering at Franklin public school events like Halloween Dances and Project Graduation fundraisers, LaCorte has worked for the Franklin Township Food Bank since 2013. As a fundraiser and event planner, LaCorte organizes food drives, coordinates volunteer efforts, and assists with the Tour de Franklin Charity Bike Ride event each year.
“Nancy actually feeds kids in our community,” Solomon said. “That alone makes her more than deserving of this award.”
Besides her efforts to fight food insecurity in Franklin, LaCorte has dedicated her time to supporting soldiers and military families as an Americorps volunteer. She won the Army Family Group Readiness Leader of the Year twice and has received the Presidential Gold Award from former President George W. Bush.
However, despite her great achievements, LaCorte’s humility is quite apparent, as she finds it difficult to discuss her personal success for more than a few seconds. She admires the resilience and “backbone” of Franklin students, staff and administration, and prefers to consider them the true warriors.
The two Franklin residents will be honored at the Warrior for Life Scholarship Foundation’s 2nd Annual Gala, which will be held at the Imperia on November 23rd. The gala serves as the Foundation’s largest fundraising event and is open to all community members. Tickets for the event are now available for purchase.
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