NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - With scholarship season upon us, New Providence resident Glenn Potolsky and his Stirling-based Allstate Agency are supporting a New Providence High School scholarship program that is very near and dear to his heart. Potolsky recently presented a check for $1,000 to Shirleen Roberts to benefit the Gary M. Roberts Memorial Track and Field Scholarship to be awarded to two New Providence High School seniors.
Last year he and his family started The Gary M. Roberts Memorial Track and Field scholarship. "The program awards students who display excellence on and off the track and field, and that embody Coach Roberts' motto 'Aim High, Never Quit, and Celebrate Victory!'," said Potolsky.
Gary Roberts was a track and field coach at New Providence High School for over 25 years. His passion was coaching the pole vault event. He coached numerous Conference, County, NJ Sectional and NJ State pole vault champions and garnered the respect of many student athletes and parents over the years. "He was passionate about the program, his athletes development, and everything New Providence. I like to say he bled NP green," said Potolsky.
Coach Roberts was a motivational force at both practices and meets, cheering on his athletes as well as their competitors. He retired from coaching in 2017 and passed away in January 2018, but he leaves behind a legacy.
When he passed suddenly of congestive heart failure in January 2018 at the age of 53, the family was devastated. "The loss was immeasurable. My wife, Suzette, channeled her grief into this scholarship, coming up with the idea to serve as part of his legacy. We put it together quickly," Potolsky said. "Gary passed in January and we were up and running by May, awarding our first two scholarships last year. It definitely helped us to find some purpose in a situation that was so senseless to all of us," he said.
Shirleen Roberts, Gary's widow, along with their two children, Jake, 24, and Rachel, 20, are active in the day-to-day of the scholarship program. They serve as Board members, support the scholarship's Facebook page, as well as fundraising efforts. Jake and Rachel jointly awarded the inaugural scholarship in their father's name at last year's scholarships awards night. The next awards ceremony is May 30th at New Providence High school.
"We leave the selection process entirely up to Shirleen, Jake, and Rachel. Glenn and I handle a lot of the operational aspects of running the foundation," said Suzette Potolsky, foundation President.
"We'd like to eventually grow the scholarship to include many more programs where Gary's dedication to coaching touched so many," said Shirleen Roberts. They would like to include his hometown of Dunellen, Bridegwater Raritan High school, where Gary was a substitute teacher and Jake and Rachel both graduated, to name a few. "Once we got our Facebook page up and running, the donations really started coming in. We received such kind notes from student athletes that Gary coached over the last 25 years. They wrote such heartfelt words about the impact Gary had on their lives. It's wonderful for us to read," she said. "It's tremendously gratifying as well as inspiring to think about the growth opportunity to pay it forward."
Suzette Potolsky said, Gary was such a special person in her life for so long that she felt she needed to do something like this. "You have this special person in your life for so long and then one day suddenly they're not. Its not fair. This is a way for us to keep him in our lives in a very special way. Glenn and I have kids in the New Providence school system, Ava is in the middle school and Alec is at Salt Brook. Gary was such a phenomenal uncle that we want them to truly understand the differences he made both on and off the track and field. What better way for us to memorialize him for them," she said.
The Gary M. Roberts Memorial Scholarship is a non-profit tax exempt organization recognized under Section 501(c)(3).