NEWARK, NJ – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders recognized several outstanding youth from around Essex County during its Annual “Essex County Celebrates Youth” Program on Wednesday, April 19.

Held at the Hall of Records in Newark, this annual event acknowledges and encourages outstanding young people throughout the county who have accomplished and contributed much at a young age.

This year’s event was a collaborative effort of the Freeholder Board that featured presentations to several deserving young men and women, including brothers Rafael Colton-Max and Zachary Colton-Max of South Orange.

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Other honorees were Kim Boerrigter of Newark; Megan Hackett of West Orange; Tyrese Fraser of Irvington; Justine Eli Rosa of Newark;Kayla Janae Wilson of Orange; Samantha E. Corredor of Montclair; and Zani Jones Mbayise of East Orange.

Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake began the program by stating, “The young people of Essex County are not the future; they are the now.” President Timberlake explained that the honorees represent the potential that exists in Essex and illustrate the future leaders that call Essex County their home. She also thanked the parents for their leadership in raising amazing children.

Rafael Colton-Max of South Orange attends Golda Och Academy (GOA), in West Orange where he enjoys classes in science, math, and Judaic and Hebrew studies. He has trained at the Mark Murphy Music School in South Orange and also performed with his band as a solo artist. He plays the drums and serves as the lead vocalist in New York City, South Orange, and Maplewood. Most recently, he was selected as the sole drummer in the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education Region 1 Junior Jazz Ensemble. Rafael has also held leading roles in the GOA Middle School productions for the last two years. Although he was born with Mastocytosis, a disorder whereby an abnormal accumulation of mast cells in all of the organs produce a variety of symptoms that impact his daily life, he has not let this limit his love for life. He has embraced the rare disease and raised nearly $1,000 by selling bracelets in support of this important cause. Rafael is the youngest son of Nomi and Harold and a proud brother to Zachary.

Zachary Colton-Max of South Orange is a high school senior spending his last semester of high school living and learning in Jerusalem, Israel, with his school, Golda Och Academy (GOA). In February 2017, he attended the Grammys as a part of the Grammy choir along with 29 other high school students from across the country to participate in the Grammy Camp Jazz Session. The choir performed all over Los Angeles during the week of the Grammy Awards at events such as Grammy in the Schools, the Grammy Nominee Reception Gala and the official Grammy Jazz After Party. Zachary was elected by his classmates to give the Senior Send Off Address and has served as the School’s Council President, coeditor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, and member of the school’s New Jersey Model Congress club. When he is not traveling, he resides at home with his brother Rafi and his parents Nomi and Harold.

Zachary, who was not present at the awards ceremony shared, "I was so touched by this honor, especially when the Freeholders were told that I could not accept it in person because I am currently studying in Israel."

"Thank you to all of my teachers and my family for helping me achieve many of these successes, and for pushing me to pursue my love of music," added Zachary.

The audience enjoyed performances by Al-Sheron Dennis, Monica Doliscat, Dejohnah Gutierrez, and Safa Ishmel-Muhammad, seniors from the Cicely Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts who were led by Instructor Norma Hughes. Reverend David Jefferson, Jr., of Metropolitan Baptist Church also delivered the opening and closing prayers during the event. 

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