RAHWAY, NJ - The message was clear and imparted with solid conviction. Rahway’s youth are standing on the shoulders of great men and women and that being from Rahway is a blessing on their lives.
Although they came to be honored as the newest members of “Rahway’s Own”, three of 2016’s inductees, Patricia Dower, Eric Roberson and Amen Igbinosun, made it clear that this day would be devoted to each and every student who, himself or herself, had the potential of being a member of “Rahway’s Own”. Inductee Darrion Caldwell, whose schedule unfortunately did not permit his attending the ceremony, shared similar sentiments in remarks he sent to be read by his Rahway High School teacher and beloved former coach Fred Stueber.
The idea for the “Rahway’s Own” program was originally conceived and presented to Mayor Samson Steinman by community members Rachael Faillace, then Director of the Rahway Arts District, and teachers at the time Patricia Volino-Reinoso and Daniel Garay. They recognized that the school district and the town were the launching pad for many successful careers, especially in the arts and in athletics. “And from there, the “Rahway’s Own” concept was born!” explains Amy Garcia Phillips, Artistic Director of the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership. She adds that it was created as “a means to motivate the youth of Rahway” who they believed “were it most precious resource.” From its initial focus on former RHS students who had developed both their artistic and athletic talents, “Rahway’s Own” has been expanded to include some of the many accomplished members of the Rahway community.
Recognizing the importance of reinforcing the visions and goals of her students and the impact the stories shared by the inductees would have on them, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Camp was eager to open the high school as a venue for this year’s program. It is her wish that “they all reach their dreams.” RHS Vice Principal and organizer for the October 3 event, Patricia Volino-Reinoso, offered, “It was amazing to see the seventh graders I knew grow to be the accomplished adults who were on that stage today.”
Throughout the program, another theme was similarly echoed by each of the guests. They all reassured students that it was quite natural not to know who one ‘is’ at such an early age. Each believes that, in fact, many events, obstacles, and opportunities which present themselves along the way all contribute to the person one becomes. Patricia Dower, celebrated author of novels such as ‘Stony River’, shares that her life “was shaped by my choices.” She advised students to “go to what speaks to your heart at the moment.” Singer, songwriter, producer and 2 time Grammy nominee, Eric Roberson, admits that he “needed every brick wall I faced to become who I was” and working actor Amen Igbinosun advises that he took “many routes trying to fulfill my dreams” and that one must “always be ready to make a change.” Darrion Caldwell, wrestling champion and now martial artist currently competing in the bantamweight division of Bellator MMA, says that one must “always be prepared” and that he “was faced with making many decisions” in his life especially after being faced with professional career challenges due a serious injury. It became quite clear to the students that perseverance, drive, and dedication were the key variables in their equation for success.
During an informal celebration with local dignitaries and school administration following the afternoon’s program, newly inducted “Rahway’s Own” members were happy to share their personal feelings of pride and gratitude. Ms. Dower expressed that it was an “amazing feeling to be claimed by the community where I grew up” and that it was “an honor to be included with such a talented group of men and women.” Mr. Igbinosun was “incredibly humbled and proud to be recognized by this beautiful city” and Mr. Roberson felt “honored to have the opportunity to give back to my city” especially because he had “so many great memories of where it all started.”
Mayor Steinman summed it up quite succinctly for the students. “Everyone has his or her own story and everyone is "Rahway’s Own”. We are the home to creativity and innovation.”