BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Students and staff of Gov. Livingston High School dressed in blue on April 11 to commemorate Westfield High School principal, 44-year-old Dr. Derrick Nelson, who passed away after donating bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy in France earlier this year.

Dr. Nelson served in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 20 years before joining Westfield Public Schools in 2010 as the assistant principal of Roosevelt Intermediate School and later the assistant principal and then principal of Westfield High School. Student council members circulated donation bins throughout the day, raising $1,130.34 to donate to the Westfield school community and Dr. Nelson’s family.

“I was incredibly sorry for the loss that your school community has experienced," said Gov. Livingston Principal Robert Nixon said, who coordinated the effort. "Dr. Nelson was truly one of my favorite colleagues and an inspirational leader. As the former President of the Union County Secondary School Principals’ Association, I worked closely with Dr. Nelson and collaborated often at our monthly meetings. His pleasant demeanor mixed with a value system that was second to none set a great example for us all."

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Nixon added, "Dr. Nelson played a key role in helping us establish the UCSSPA Senior Award that began in 2018. Also, as the current treasurer of the UCSSPA, he opened a new account for the group and set us up as a non-profit organization. I will miss his company and leadership. On behalf of the entire Gov. Livingston High School community, we extend our thoughts and prayers to you and Dr. Nelson's family.”

In addition to wearing blue and donating money, Highlanders headed to the field during lunch to form a “W” to support fellow Westfield friends and teachers.

Assistant Principal Tara Oliveira also spearheaded the memorial and said, “We felt that it was important for our school community to show support to our neighbors in Westfield and to the family of Dr. Derek Nelson. As an administrative team, we worked with our student leadership and developed a plan that could best showcase our support of Westfield, while keeping in mind the spirit of service and giving of Dr. Nelson."

As students walked into the building this morning, the GLHS administration cheered with elation as we saw the number of Highlanders that wore royal blue today, said Oliveira. "We are so proud of and constantly impressed by the way our school community can come together in an act of support.”

While rivals on the field, Gov. Livingston and Westfield residents can be sure to count on one another in times of hardship.

Editor's Note: Mikayla Sanchez is a senior at Gov. Livingston High School participating in the TAPinto intern program.