WAYNE, NJ – Four members of the Wayne Valley Class of 2020 were recipients of the ‘Class of 1979 Memorial Scholarship.’ Alex Abrams, Anthony Depalma, Joseph Duke and Matthew Hartwich each received $1,979.00 in cash scholarships from alumni who graduated from the same school 41 years earlier.
“The Wayne Valley Class of 1979 found a way to honor their 26 classmates who have passed away too soon,” said Wayne Valley alum Marcy Thompson.
It was at their fortieth high school reunion in November 2019 that the Wayne Valley class of ‘79 decided to award memorial scholarships in the names of their classmates who had passed away. During the following months, the scholarship committee, led by Francine Leff called on their classmates with the goal of raising $2,000 and handing out four $500 scholarships.
“We reached out via Facebook, emails, and asked others to call their friends and pass the word,” said Thompson. “In the end, we got in touch with about two-thirds of the class.”
The class, as a whole raised just short of $8,000, and decided to give away four scholarships in the amount of $1,979.00 each to honor the class of 1979.
The ’79 scholarship committee worked with Wayne Valley Guidance Counselor, Kate Kay who passed on the requirements to earn the scholarships. Seniors who wanted to participate were asked to write an essay of no more than 350 words. A total of 64 essays were submitted.
“Five of us read the 64 essays,” said Thompson. “We then each submitted our top five to Francine Leff.”
Leff, Thompson and the other four essay readers discussed the top essays and eventually chose the four winners. “It was how well the essays were written and how well we connected with what they wrote about,” explained Thompson. “Narrowing down the 64 to the eventual final four was difficult. Which is a testament to the quality and content of the essays.”
The scholarships were presented on June 17, via a virtual Zoom presentation, by the committee.
“Congratulations to all the graduates in the class of 2020 and a very special thank you to the generosity to the Class of 1979,” said Leff. “Our classmates will never be forgotten!”
Thompson admitted that the idea for the scholarship came from the class of 1978 who gave away scholarships to the Wayne Valley class of 2019. “From my understanding they raised $1,000 and did two scholarships,” she said. “The class of 1979 built on this, and I hope that each class will pay it forward.”
**Correction to previously published article: The Class of 1978 gave away four $1,000 scholarships to the Class of 2019**