SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - In a tradition dating back to 1966, South Plainfield High School held their Annual Scholarship Awards Program on Monday June 4th. Celebrating the accomplishments and achievements of the Class of 2018, 162 scholarships were awarded for a total of $121,050, for students excelling in athletics, academics, talents in the arts and service to the community, while demonstrating outstanding leadership skills and exemplary character.
“South Plainfield is a community of givers.” said Director of Guidance Sam Fierra. “It is the strength of this community. Giving scholarships to young people to go out and further their education, and doing so through a scholarship in someone’s name, is a way to have that person live on, giving. People here understand the obligation to try and leave this world a little better of a place than when you found it. It is great to see that happen.”
“This is definitely a really wonderful night,” said Principal Ronnie Spring, opening the evening. “We get to honor all of the seniors, who have accomplished so much in their last four years…I look at high school as the place where we help you, as family members and friends, develop students into well-rounded individuals, who are going to be successful outside of school. That’s not just academics, that’s civic, service, character, teamwork. The seniors you are going to see here tonight embody all those characteristics and they really are everything that makes South Plainfield great.”
Bridging the past and the present, the two SPHS inductees of the 24th Annual South Plainfield Hall of Fame spoke to the graduates of 2018, offering advice and encouragement. The first inductee introduced was Class of 1988 Dr. Howard Fidler, who is now a successful Chiropractor in Minnesota and whose many accomplishments have taken him around the world as a chiropractor for semi-pro teams, professional athletes, prize boxers and Olympic athletes. Fidler’s award-winning reputation has taken him far professionally, but he believes in keeping everything in perspective.
“Understand you are coming from an amazing institution in South Plainfield,” said Fidler. “You should be proud of yourselves, but the biggest thing I can leave with you is, it’s great to push yourself, it’s great to want to achieve all those things, but you have to take time for yourself. You have to reflect on things. And when things don’t go right, shake it off and go on. Just go, be great and enjoy yourself while you do it.”
The next SPHS Hall of Fame inductee to speak was Class of 1989 graduate Georgeann Larsen, a successful businesswoman who was instrumental in the start-up of PowerBack Rehabilitation as Human Resource Manager, before which she headed up the Human Resource Department of one of the largest healthcare companies in the country. Among Larsen’s many accomplishments, she initiated SPHS’s first co-ed competition cheer team, has been a Volunteer Cheer Coach for 20 years with S.P. Recreation Department and has been the SPHS Varsity Cheerleading Coach for the past 25 years.
“I want you to remember to always challenge yourself in life.” said Larsen. “Always believe in yourself and never give up. If there are barriers built, challenge yourself to break that barrier. Never forget your roots. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”
With that, the much-anticipated Scholarship Awards Program was ready to begin. Several organizations required students to complete applications where they met criteria and/or wrote essays. Other organizations used a standard application provided by the Guidance Department. All of the applications were meticulously reviewed and considered by each organization.
“Tonight our students will be receiving the generosity which fulfills our community,” said Fierra. “This generosity comes from our donors, most of whom you already know and if you don’t, you will meet them tonight as they proudly present 162 scholarships totaling $121,050.”
The presentation of scholarships began with Raritan Valley Chapter Links, Inc., who presented an unspecified amount to Aka Uba. Fierra presented the award on behalf of Jennifer Durham, who could not attend the event.
The Jaipersaud Algoo Memorial Scholarship was presented to Kathryn Berry by Shelly Algoo and Zachary Diaz.
“Good evening everyone,” said Diaz, a young boy representing the family. “South Plainfield is the second home to both my grandparents as well as my mother. My grandfather was very proud to be a resident of South Plainfield and he loved this town very much. Most importantly, he loved education…I leave you with a powerful quote from a very important man, Nelson Mandella, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.’ We hope that the recipient we chose will do just that.”
Georgeann Larsen and Lisa Abate represented the South Plainfield High School Cheer Parents Association and presented three scholarships, in the amount of $500 each, to students Mary Abate, Hanna Dunn and Alyssa Martinez.
The Suburban Woman's Club of South Plainfield, represented by Debbie Boyle, Diana Cotone, Jane Rundella and Lucy Hudson, awarded $1,000 each to Simran Modhera, Roshni Patel, Skyler Staats and Aka Uba.
Several organizations have been presenting scholarships since the inception of the Scholarship Awards Program in 1966 and have continued presenting scholarships over the years. The Suburban Women’s Club was one of those organizations, along with the South Plainfield Fire Department, SPHS PTA (now PTO-O), Rotary Club of South Plainfield, American Legion Post 243 and Veterans of Foreign War of South Plainfield. Back then, the program was held during the school day and 15 scholarships were awarded for a total of $4,375.
Firefighter Michael Pellegrino of the South Plainfield Bureau of Fire Prevention awarded two $1,500 scholarships of the Chief John R. Cotone Memorial Scholarship to Skyler Staats and Julian Lee.
Firefighter John Calvey of the South Plainfield Volunteer Fire Department presented the Joseph E. Delaney Scholarship, in the amount of $2,000, to Jessica McGuinness.
The South Plainfield Knights of Columbus Scholarship was presented to Jack Scrudato, Brandon Wizda, Kathryn Berry and Tatianna Sutor, by Tom Walsh and Harold Bolton of the South Plainfield Knights of Columbus. The amount of the scholarship was for $500 each.
Tom Wiggins and Louis DiMeglio of the New Jersey School Buildings and Grounds Association presented the Central Chapter Scholarship to Kate LeBlanc and Aka Uba, in the amount of $1,000 each.
Rocco Severini, Susan Gwiazda and Chris Seesselberg of the South Plainfield Summer Drama, a six week summer program that teaches the youth of the community vocal and acting techniques, presented the South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop Scholarship, in the amount of $250 each, to Isabella Rochford and Brian Sesta.
The South Plainfield Parents Ponytail Association was represented by Anthony Barbara and his daughter Isabelle. Dressed in her softball uniform, Isabelle announced the recipients of the SPPPA Scholarships, Jennifer Grasso and Makayla Sosa, who each received $500.
Patricia Trenchak Feeney presented four scholarships on behalf of TAPinto South Plainfield Publisher Darlene Tedeso-Cullen, in the amount of $250 each. The recipients of the South Plainfield Athlete of the Week Scholarship were Jennifer Grasso, Joe Heilmann, Billy Keane and Ria Soni.
The Family of Charles and Lois Decker Charles presented the Lois Decker Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $1,000, to Aka Uba for outstanding volunteerism and academics.
Representing the South Plainfield High School PTO-O, Sharon Miller presented two $500 scholarships, one to Azreen Zaman and another to Jacqueline Battista.
Each year, several organizations donate scholarships through the South Plainfield Education Foundation, a non-profit, tax exempt organization that was established in 1995 to seek financial support from the business community for SPHS students. Marjorie Reedy, President of the SPEF, was invited to the podium to introduce several of those businesses as they presented their scholarships.
Elaine Gallo presented two checks for $750 for the Eric Thomas Nebenzahl Scholarship, which was awarded to Kathryn Berry and Alea Watson.
The William E. Arends, Sr. Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $500, was given to Joshua Persad by Nancy Carlson, whose father, William Arends, passed away at the age of 94. His love of music and devotion to his faith led his family to create the scholarship to award to students whose shared his passion.
The Edward A. Niemczyk Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $1,000, was given to Sarah Regan by Edward Niemczyk and Arlene Hayeck, in honor of their father, Edward Niemczyk, who loved sports, history and the town of South Plainfield.
The John Wieckowski Cross Country Scholarship, presented by Joseph Reach and Diana Wieckowski, was awarded to Amanda Cheng in the amount of $500 in honor of John Wieckowski, who passed away in January 2018 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, but who was a successful track star all through his SPHS career.
Joseph Vella and Michael Texera presented two $500 scholarships on behalf of South Plainfield Memorial Post #6763 Veterans of Foreign War. The recipients were Cara Capone and Jade Scotti.
A Veteran of the Navy and now 97 years old, Vella’s advice to the young adults as they embark on their journey into adulthood was, “Count your life by smiles, not tears. Count your life by friends, not years.”
The Dalal Family Foundation, represented by Sudarshan Uppuluri, Dan Gibson and Nikhil Bhalja, presented four scholarships in the amount of $1,500 each. The recipients were Sarah Regan, Azreen Zaman, Shivam Patel and Akachukwu Uba. The Dalal Family Foundation has partnered with the South Plainfield Education Foundation for over ten years.
The Seesselberg Foundation Scholarship, represented by Bill and Chris Seesselberg, gave two Diane Seesselberg Memorial Scholarships in the amount of $500 each. The recipients were Isabella Rochford and Grace Sesta.
Samantha Williams was given a $1,000 check from the Sarmad Rizvi Memorial Scholarship, represented by Nasim Rizvi, Shamble Rizvi and Fiza Rizvi.
Frances Flannery, along with Fred and Judy Moretti, presented the Trista Moretti Scholarship, in the amount of $500, to Tatianna Sutor. Trista Moretti was a gifted field hockey player when she attended South Plainfield High School, who gave their life for her country in June of 2007.
Flannery also presented the Anthony Cotoia Scholarship, in the amount of $1,000, to Julian Lee. Coach Cotoia was a respected and admired coach at South Plainfield High School.
Ken and Kathie Fry of the Time to Shine Foundation established in 2011, presented $4,000 to Amivi Sogbo, whose essay about the spirit of entrepreneurship made quite an impression.
The $1,000 Kenneth LaFreniere Memorial Scholarship was given to Allison Graves by presenters Reedy and Christine LaFreniere.
The South Plainfield Education Foundation Emil Leporino Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $1,000, was given to Erica Cieszkiewicz by presenters Reedy and Debra Leporino, in memory of the founding member of the foundation.
The Middle School PTO Scholarship, represented by Dawn Tomei and Georgia Lambert, gave $500 to Parth Patel, and $250 each to Aubrey Marish and Samantha Williams.
Franklin Elementary School PTO awarded two scholarships, presented by Jesse Modrzecki, Kerry Notino and James and Tracy Colapietro, in the amount of $500 each. The Franklin Elementary School PTO Scholarship was given to former Franklin Elementary student Aubrey Marish. The Karlie Rose Colapietro Scholarship, also in the amount of $500, was given to Grace Sesta.
South Plainfield American Legion Chaumont Post 243, represented by Richard Doerr, Robert Bengivenga, Sr., and John DeAndrea, awarded eight scholarships. The recipients of $750 each were Charles Lovett, Joseph Heilmann and Kayla Greenleaf. The recipients of a $1,000 scholarship each were Joseph Kelly, Brianna Noriega and Jack Scrudato. The recipients of a $2,000 scholarship each was Cara Capone and Sean McConville.
Joe Panyak, Jr. and Glenn Scott of the Sons of American Legion Post 243 awarded two scholarships for $500 each to Kevin Hagy and Litzi Uriquia-Suazo.
The Plainfields' Chapter of UNICO, represented by Robert Bengivenga, Sr., awarded a $1,000 UNICO Memorial Scholarship to Jack Scrudato.
South Plainfield High School Tiger Football Club awarded a scholarship of $200 to Parth Patel. The award was presented by Sergeant Gary Cassio.
Cassio also presented five scholarships for $500 each on behalf of the South Plainfield P.B.A. Local 100. Those who received them were Matthew Furnari, William Keane, Sean McConville, John Roarty and Skyler Staats.
Nancy Grennier of The South Plainfield Observer awarded the Athlete of the Week Scholarship, in the amount of $750, to Courtney Smith.
South Plainfield High School DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), represented by Kayla Bryant-Khanutin and Kelly Butrico, awarded two $150 scholarships for DECA Outstanding Service Award to students Amivi Sogbo and Dayana Velasco.
Sandra Doyon and Al Hook of the John F. Kennedy Variety Show awarded the Eve Hook Scholarship, in the amount of $500, to Charles Lovett. The Sherry Lawrence Scholarship, in the amount of $500, was given to Skyler Staats.
Doyon also presented the Tommy Cooper Doyon - Thank you Music Scholarship, which was presented to Isabella Rochford in the amount of $500.
The John F. Kennedy School PTSO Scholarship, for $500, was awarded to Lindsay Soper by Doyon.
Sharon Miller presented the South Plainfield High School PTO-O to Jacqueline Battista and Azreen Zaman, in the amount of $500 each.
Diane Joffe and Doyon represented the South Plainfield Education Association to present a $1,000 scholarship each to Megan Celentano, Sean McConville and Jack Scrudato.
Stacy Rothrock-Steinfeld presented the Grant School PTO Scholarship, in the amount of $250 each, to Brian Harper, Samantha Williams, and Azreen Zaman.
Nina Rohrer and Robert Rossow from the SPHS Boosters of the Musical Arts presented six scholarships. The recipients of the SPHS Boosters of the Musical Arts Scholarships for $250 each were Isabella Ardito, Aubrey Marish, Stephanie Waters, and Mayra Moreno. The Daniel A. Spisso Memorial, in the amount of $1,000, was awarded to Isabella Rochford. The Fulvio C. D'Alessio Award, in the amount of $500, was given to Jennifer Christilles by Joanne Otlowski, the daughter of Fulvio D'Alessio.
South Plainfield Junior Baseball Club, represented by Jay Culver, awarded $2,000 to Jack Scrudato. They also awarded $1,000 each to Brandon Wizda and Christopher LaCasale.
Bill Ashnault represented the South Plainfield Wrestling Club and awarded Joseph Heilmann a scholarship of $500.
South Plainfield Pop Warner Tiger Football, represented by Jennifer Currao and Craig Hook, awarded the S.P. Pop Warner Tigers Scholarship, in the amount of $500 each, to Charles Lovett and Cara Capone. The Darren Gorman Athletic Scholarship was given to Zion Spears and was also $500.
Nancy Grennier, Debbie Boyle, Marjorie Reedy and Shannon Jeffreys represented the South Plainfield Business Association and presented Christine Chen with a $500 scholarship.
Shannon Jeffreys from The South Plainfield Golf Association presented Brandon Wizda with a $500 scholarship.
The Edward and Mary Slicner Memorial Scholarship for $1,000 went to Cara Capone. The award was presented by Keith Slicner.
The Boyle Memorial Foundation, represented by Debbie Boyle, Megan Boyle Winters and Patrick Boyle, presented nine $500 scholarships to students Megan Celentano, Hanna Dunn, Joseph Heilmann, Sean McConville, Isabella Rochford, Jack Scrudato, Brandon Wizda, Stephanie Waters and Cara Capone.
The South Plainfield Tiger Shark SWIM Team gave the Robin Cone Memorial Scholarship to Aubrey Marish for $300, and the S.P. Tiger Sharks Swim Team Scholarship also went to Aubrey Marish for $300.
Reedy presented several scholarships that came through the South Plainfield Education Foundation. Umicore, a South Plainfield-based company, awarded two scholarships for $2,600 each to Maulin Patel and Christine Chen. The Class of 1965 Scholarship, in memory of classmates lost, awarded $1,000 to Connor Aleksandrowicz. Three scholarships were given for $1,000 each from the Robustelli Family Foundation to Shivam R. Patel, Henrique Pereira, and Azreen Zaman.
Two SPEF William Beegle Scholarships were given in the amount of $1,500 each, to Cara Capone and Courtney Smith.
Three students received $1,000 each from fundraisers for the Education Foundation Scholarship. They were Vevikanand Deonarine, Samantha Williams, and Azreen Zaman.
The Frank Mikorski Memorial Scholarship was given to Andrea Avelar, in the amount of $1,000, and the Stanley Morris Memorial Scholarship was given to Azreen Zaman, in the amount of $1,000.
The South Plainfield High School Girl Scouts awarded 22 scholarships. The South Plainfield Girl Scouts Active Girl Scout Scholarship, each for $500, was given to Alejandra Arboleda, Jacqueline Battista, Amanda Cheng, Christina LoBosco, Aubrey Marish, Shea Price, Courtney Smith, Alexis Walker, Stephanie Waters, and Samantha Williams.
The Girl Scout Silver Award Scholarship was also for $500 each and was received by Jacqueline Battista, Amanda Cheng, Aubrey Marish, Shea Price, Courtney Smith, Lindsey Soper, Alexis Walker, Stephanie Waters, and Samantha Williams.
Girl Scout Gold Award Scholarship was given to Aubrey Marish in the amount of $1,000. And the Girl Scout Essay Scholarship was awarded to Christina LoBosco and Aubrey Marish. Each of the students receiving the essay scholarship received $2,500.
The Italian American Progressive League, represented by Frank Approvato and Kenneth Bechtle, presented three scholarships for $2,500 each to Alexis Walker, Deanna DeVizio, and Joseph Heilmann.
Fierra presented the South Plainfield Field Hockey Association awards of an unspecified amount to Erica Cieszkiewicz, Jennifer Grasso, Quinn Milane, Haley Olsen, Shea Price, Megan Russo and Tatianna Sutor.
The Pink Socs Foundation, a foundation established to remember two sisters who passed away from cancer, awarded two $1,000 scholarships. The Joanne Vargas Memorial Scholarship was given to Matthew Furnari and the Elizabeth Ann Pinkham Memorial Scholarship was given to Jacqueline Battista.
The Roosevelt Elementary School PTO awarded Sahith Nagireddy a scholarship for $500. The John E. Riley School PTSO awarded two J. E. Riley Teachers' Memorial Scholarships in the amount of $500 each to Joseph Kelly and Haley Olsen.
South Plainfield Elks Lodge No. 2298 awarded the Gery Fantazir and Rose Napoliello Scholarships to recipient Aubrey Marish, in the amount of $1,000.
The final award of the evening was from the Seaside Italian American Club and was given to Jacqueline Battista for $1,000.
The evening closed as Fierra thanked everyone for coming. As proud parents and students posed for photos, the excitement of the evening lingered in the air.
“I feel honored and thankful to South Plainfield High School for organizing this event,” said Sean McConville.
“I’m so grateful to everyone,” said Isabella Rochford. “The scholarships are going to go to good use. I’m just so happy! I can’t say anything but thank you!”
“South Plainfield is a very unique community because everybody gives back in one form or another,” said Reedy.
“This evening could never go badly,” said Fierra after the event. “Kids are walking out of here with over 120 thousand dollars to put towards their education. That’s always a good night, in fact, a great night!”