HACKENSACK, N.J. — Hackensack Riverkeeper is accepting applications for their 2020 environmental scholarship.

The Hackensack Riverkeeper, the citizen-steward of the Hackensack River Watershed, recently renamed the scholarship after Margaret Utzinger and Ronald Vellekamp, two late founding trustees. 

The scholarship supports college-bound high school seniors who demonstrate a strong commitment to environmental protection and academic track record.

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The scholarship, which began in 2001, was initially named after Ronald Vellekamp, a science teacher, part-time park ranger and Scout leader. From 2003 to 2019, the scholarship awarded $17,000 to Bergen, Hudson and Rockland Counties’ most environmentally literate high school graduates. 

Utzinger, who passed away in August 2018, devoted more than 25 years to the Hackensack River as coalition co-founder in the late 1980s and as a founding trustee in 1997. During her 21-year tenure on the board of trustees, she served for six years as president. 

“In many ways during the organization’s early years, Margaret and Ron set the tone for our board and ensured its ongoing focus as Hackensack Riverkeeper’s fiduciary guardian,” said Captain Bill Sheehan. “They were great friends, they were thick as thieves, and they cared about our river and its future as much as anyone could.” 

A panel of Hackensack Riverkeeper Trustees and staffers helmed by Captains Sheehan and Carola will review each application with careful consideration placed on students’ academic achievements, environmental-focused extracurricular activities and future goals. 

Eligible high school seniors at 66 high schools in Bergen, Hudson and Rockland Counties living with a 210-square mile Hackensack River Watershed must be nominated by a teacher or guidance counselor for the award. Applications must be postmarked by Earth Day, April 22. 

The winner of the $1,000 unrestricted award will be announced by June 1. 

Additional application criteria is available by emailing Carola at Hugh@hackensackriverkeeper.org or by calling 201-968-0808. 

Donations to the Utzinger-Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship are tax deductible and can be made by check or online at hackensackriverkeeper.org.