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Summit High School's Leila Esposito Included in Trio of Junior League Scholarship Recipients

From left, Junior League of Summit's 2018 Shirley Wright Keeney Voluntarism Scholarship recipients Katie Zimmermann, Leila Esposito and Continuing Education Scholarship recipient Sarna Manchanda. Credits: Junior League of Summit (photos)

SUMMIT, NJ - Summit High School senior Leila Esposito is one of two students who have been named recipients of the Junior League of Summit's 2018 'Shirley Wright Keeney Voluntarism Scholarships'. Esposito is joined by Katie Zimmermann of Governor Livingston High School. In addition, the Junior League of Summit has awarded its inaugural 'Continuing Education Scholarship' to Sarna Manchanda of Berkeley Heights, who is currently attending the University of Southern California.

Each recipients receives a $3,000 award.

“The League is always impressed with the caliber of our scholarship applicants, and this year is no exception. The achievements and contributions of these women is an inspiration to us all, and we look forward to seeing what they accomplish as they continue their education,” said Liz Dutkewych, Junior League President..

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The 'Shirley Wight Keeney Voluntarism' Scholarships' are awarded annually by the Junior League of Summit to local, graduating seniors. The scholarships' namesake, Shirley Wight Keeney, was a beloved member of the Junior League of Summit and the Summit community. As an active volunteer, Keeney truly demonstrated the League's Mission of promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through effective action and leadership.

This year, the Junior League of Summit introduced a new 'Continuing Education Scholarship', which is an award given to an adult woman who has demonstrated a commitment to voluntarism in her community and is pursuing additional education or certification.

Esposito plans to study biology and Spanish, and will be playing varsity soccer, at Catholic University of America. She began pursuing her love for voluntarism early on as a Girl Scout in elementary school and remained in scouting through high school, continuing to bolster her passion for volunteer work through her Gold Award Project. Esposito observed a need in the local community and devoted two years to tackling it with other volunteers.

Over the past few years, Syrian / Afghani / Iraqi refugee families have been seeking protection in Elizabeth and, as a result, a new community of refugee children formed. A majority of the children, ages 4-18, have been out of school or have never even attended school throughout their lives due to the constant presence of war in their home countries. In order to help acclimate these refugee children to the school environment and ease them into the American culture, she ran a summer program at a local mosque in Elizabeth to teach introductory English -- important phrases for school -- and beginner math skills. While working on this project, she has maintained a 4.2 GPA with a rigorous academic schedule and has been an involved member of her school's student council. She captained her high school's varsity soccer team for two seasons, and is looking forward to remaining very active in the volunteering community while continuing to study and play soccer at college next year.

Zimmermann, who will be attending Elon University, has been an active, volunteer-focused Girl Scout since she was in Kindergarten. Over time, she has completed her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, the three highest honors a Girl Scout can earn. For her Gold Award, she created a sustainable literacy program in Hillside’s George Washington School. She created an ongoing book swap, created monthly newsletters, and held monthly book club meetings for the students. In high school, in addition to a heavy course schedule of AP and honors classes, Zimmerman has had academic success while also managing the varsity swim team and volunteering with the Mountainside Local Youth Group, the Red Cross, Relay for Life, Operation Smile, and Link Crew , where she led and aided freshmen in transitioning to high school. Recently, she has been meeting with state and local officials and participating in non-violent walk-outs and marches in support of stricter gun reform and regulations and creating safer schools.

Manchanda is a rising Junior at USC studying Computational Neuroscience with a minor in Applied Computer Security. She is involved in conducting research at the Signal Analysis Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL) at USC as well as taking part in clubs like 3D Printing for Everyone (3D4E) and Corpus Callosum, a club devoted to exploring art in engineering. Through 3D4E, she had the opportunity to teach the basics of Computer Aided Design and 3D printing to kids of all ages in the Los Angeles community as well as show how 3D printed objects can be a useful learning tool in classrooms. On breaks, Manchanda volunteers for the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad as an associate Emergency Medical Technician. Last summer, she also coordinated a robotics program for middle school and high school aged kids in Newark through the StreetSquash New Jersey program in an effort to teach them the basics of programming and robotics and encourage them to pursue those fields in the future.

This summer, she will continue volunteering with the Rescue Squad and will also be working as an Information Security intern with the Interpublic Group in New York City.

The Junior League of Summit is a nonprofit, charitable, and educational organization of women who are committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. For more information, visit or call 908-273-7349.

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