FAIRFIELD, NJ — Winston Churchill School was full of energy and excitement on Friday as volunteers from Rutgers Leadership Academy (RLA) held a pep rally honoring the elementary school for being selected as the winner of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and Rutgers Athletics contest.

When NJEA Review Magazine posed the question, “Are your students college ready?” last year, Churchill teachers Vanessa Mayer and Lindsay Hessenius submitted a copy of the school’s 2017 Career Day program to NJEA and Rutgers Athletics, which partnered in this contest to encourage elementary students to think about college and its benefits early in their school careers. Churchill was selected for being the best elementary school in New Jersey promoting early college motivation.

“NJEA received lots of amazing entries, and we are proud of the great work NJEA members are doing to help students achieve their dreams,” said Mayer and Hessenius, co-chairs of Career Day. “We are so thrilled to have won this contest.”

Sign Up for E-News

The school enjoyed a pep rally led by Rutgers student-athletes, the Rutgers University cheerleading team and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights mascot. Churchill School also received 50 Rutgers basketball tickets that will be raffled off to students.

Churchill Principal Raymond Santana led the students in the Rutgers University “R U” chant while the Rutgers University cheerleaders led cheers and presented a dance routine to the university’s fight song. The Winston Churchill Bulldog and the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight were also on hand to encourage student participation in the pep rally.

The RLA Career and Community Engagement Program, under the direction of Candice Martinez, consists of volunteers who visit schools and hospitals, participate in neighborhood cleanups, help out at soup kitchens and more. Rutgers senior and field hockey player Haley Meade, along with her fellow RLA Career and Community Engagement Program representatives, directed an interactive dialogue with Churchill students about exploring the possibility of different careers and the overall importance of education.

“It was a great day, especially with my son in the room,” said Philip Alagia, Essex County chief of staff. “I was able to tell the students a lot about Essex County and politics in general and the staff was great.”

Throughout the day, 21 local professionals spoke to students about their individual careers, their education and some qualifications for being successful. Students were allowed to choose five presenters to hear from and were encouraged to ask questions.

Presenter Tomianne Pagano of Any Excuse for a Party stressed to the students that “[their] career can be fun,” and Yamini Patel, CPA, told students that “great things never come from remaining in your comfort zone.”

Mayer and Hessenius emphasized that another important part of the presentations was that “students learned how important their reading and math skills are in life.”

“Career Day at Churchill School was a successful and inspiring event,” said Nancy Warmington, assistant prosecutor. “It was a pleasure to see the students and staff in such a positive environment.”

Robotic camera operator Tommy Corigliano served as the keynote speaker in the afternoon, which also included a dance party, light show and party giveaways from the “Dream Team,” consisting of Randy Patrizio, Alex Friedland and motivator Jen Buckler of East Hanover’s HDE Entertainment.

Students and their families were also invited back to school that night for an evening event where aspiring singer Kailie Simpson spoke about her performances and career path and HDE Entertainment Group provided music.

Family-owned businesses such as Any Excuse for a Party and Explore Your Art also donated their time to provide a bounce house, face painting and more at the event.

Topping off the event were two food trucks and a bonfire provided by the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department.

Presenters included:

Yamini Patel, CPA

Butch Lanzerotti, baker and owner of Lyndhurst Pastry Shop

Roseann DeFalco, balloon artist and owner of The Balloon Boss

Dr. Michael Sapienza, chiropractor from Mecca Integrate Medical

Peter Marion, Fairleigh Dickenson University men’s basketball coach

Dr. Dena Lacara, DO, Mecca Integrated Medical

Randy Patrizio and Alex Friedman, entertainment DJ from HDE Entertainment Fire Captain Joseph Przybylinski and guests from the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department

Judy Anthony of Judy Anthony Florist

Erin Gloor, gymnastics instructor from USA Twisterz

Dina Racciatti, makeup artist from Dina’s Kiss and Makeup

Sgt. Chris Oswald, Fairfield Police Department

Luciana Contuzzi, restaurant entrepreneur of ZEST

Tom Corigliano, robotics camera operator

Philip Alagia, Essex County Chief of Staff

Deanna Jackson, registered nurse

Dave Popkin, sports broadcaster

Maggie Monza and Val Maldonato, veterinary technicians

Catrina LaRosa, hairdresser

Robert and Nancy Warmington, defense attorney and assistant prosecutor

Tomianne and Scott Pagano, party planners for Any Excuse for a Party.

The Career Day breakfast was organized by the Home School Association (HSA), and food was supplied by Maschio Food Service. Lunch was supplied by the HSA through Hollywood Pizza.

The school provided lunch for the presenters and Rutgers student athletes from Il Panino Pizza and Lyndhurst Pastry Shop.

The school extended its gratitude to everyone who participated.

Sign up to get all the news as it happens HERE or follow us on Facebook and on Twitter at @TAPWestEssex.


Career Day presenters return for the New Jersey Education Association and Rutgers Athletics' pep rally to honor Winston Churchill School, the winning NJ school in the "Are Your Students College Ready? Campaign."  Bottom left: Butch Lanzerotti, owner of Lyndhurst Pastry Shop and Nancy Warmington, assistant prosecutor. Top left:  Joseph Przyblinski, deputy fire official and captain of the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department, Raymond Santana, principal of Winston Church School and Yamini Patel, accountant.

Vanessa Mayer and Lindsay Hessenius, Fairfield Township Churchill School teachers and co-chairs of Career Day, pose in front of Career Day bulletin board.

Rutgers Leadership Academy volunteers and cheerleaders and Rutgers mascot prepare for the pep rally.