SOMERSET, NJ - The Warrior For Life Scholarship Foundation hosted its 3rd annual Gala at the Imperia, Friday night.
The Warrior For Life Scholarship Gala, serves as the biggest annual fundraising opportunity for the foundation, hosted almost two hundred attendees. At tables adorned with blue and gold centerpieces, distant generations of Franklin Township teachers, administrators, coaches, students, elected officials and community members sat side by side, making the night a celebration of Franklin’s history, present, and future.
Attendees kicked off the night with appetizers, cocktails and casino games. Supreme Productionz provided music and entertainment.
This year's "Casino Royale" themed Gala was complete with gaming tables made possible through donations from Venus Jewelers, Stage House Tavern, Eli's Fish & Grill, Momentum Advisors, Magyar Bank, avidxchange Foundation, The Mighty Ox(Omicron Chi Chapter), Lions International, A. Rush & Co., Bill Grippo, Nicolas J. DiMeglio, Robin White-DiMeglio, Carlton Evans, and Kim Primus.
Local fundraising guru Bill Grippo discussed why he decided to sponsor Casino Royale, and why other local businesses and community leaders should do the same.
This year's Gala helped more students and raised a record-breaking $15,000 in scholarships.
"We have been blessed to work with our community, friends, and family to establish additional scholarships to support students of the Franklin Township community," Warrior For Life Scholarship Foundation, Co-Founder, Nicholas Solomon said... "Tonight we are honoring 14 amazing students, who are either high school seniors or college freshmen. They are doing an outstanding job in the classroom on the stage in the community and much more. Last-year we were able to honor 11, so we are very proud and humbled to be able to grow our scholarship foundation."
Warrior for Life Scholarship Foundation, Co-Founder Adrian Plummer spoke about the background of many of the scholarships.
The following students were awarded:
Myra A. Mitchell Financial Need and Trafedy Award: Estella Bobadilla-Cruz
William Westfield Legacy Award: Arnov Tolat
Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm and Barbara Bernard Historically Black College & University Award: Kayla Smith
Mr. and Mrs. Carl and Theresa Wade Academic Excellence Award: Fatmata Nallo
Dennis Harris Legacy Scholarship Award: Jack Trio
Reverend Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. Legacy Award: Julien Hector
Community Pay It Forward: Arthur Robert Moore Scholarship Award: Brianno Rao
Community Pay It Forward: Doris Wilson: Courtney Nicholson
Franklin Township Supervisors and Administrators Association Scholarship Award: Maleah Moon
Len Rivers Diversity and Inclusion Achievement Scholarship Award: Rebecca Akande
Sheryl Lynn Rosenbaum Encouraging Achievement Scholarship Award: Afsheen Ahmed and Selma Mehmedagic
Alexandar Brian Tatum Encouraging Achievement Scholarship Award: Nia Abdulah and Nylah Miles
In addition to honoring this year's scholarship recipients, Reverend, DeForest “Buster” Soaries Jr., Councilwoman At-Large, Kimberly Francois, and local philanthropist Dr. Peter Stavrianidis were also honored at this year's Gala.
Soaries, recently announced that he will retire as Pastor of the First Baptist Church in November 2020 after 30 years of service. However, his legacy will undoubtedly persist in the Franklin community thanks in part to the Warriors for Life legacy scholarship in his namesake.
During his speech, Soaries spoke about how members of the Franklin community work together to raise future leaders.
"You are a people that take education seriously," Soaries said. "You are a people that are exemplary, in your willingness to rise above the traditional lines of division and come together for a common cause. And you are a people who are willing to invest in the futures of young people who will grow into leaders of not only this community but the entire nation."
Francois, the recipient of the 2019 Warrior for Life Award exemplifies the essence of what it means to be a Warrior for Life. She spearheaded the $14 million Youth Center construction project. The ground breaking ceremony for the Franklin Youth Center occurred on August 15th, and the Youth Center is on track to be up and running by September 2020.
“Councilman Francois has been active in the community for years, taking on any initiative that needed to be taken on,” Rebekah Solomon, co-founder of the Warrior for Life Scholarship Foundation told TAPinto. “She is doing work that is so necessary but can be really difficult, and we applaud her bravery.”
During her speech, Francois spoke about how appreciative she was to be named a Warrior for Life honoree.
"This is a true honor for me, it is the biggest honor I have ever had," Francois said. "It is the biggest honor I have ever had, it means so much to me... This is a great, great organization they do so much for youth, it is all about the youth. Thank you for having me, I am very humbled, and I am very grateful."
Stavrianidis, owner of Venus Jewelers was surprised at the event when Warrior For Life Scholarship Foundation, Co-Founder Daryn Plummer announced Stravrianidis as a 2019 Warrior For Life honoree. Plummer spoke of many of Stavrianidis' philanthropic ventures and his leadership roles.
"Kiss may begin with Kay, but Venus puts the VE in love," Plummer said
A shocked Stavrianidis spoke from the heart about his life in the Franklin community and his observations of the people he interacts with professionally and personally.
“I got to meet so many of you wonderful people, and I am a gemologist and also a sociologist," Stavriandis said. “I love gems and I love people. I look at people like gems, different colors, different personalities. Different characteristics, but to me, they’re all precious, and every single one of us has a mission. I try to live my mission.”
TAPinto Franklin Township is independently owned and operated by Malik A. Lyons FHS Class of 93’ Graduate.