WEST ORANGE, NJ - Educators, administrators, local politicians and community residents gathered at the Rock Spring Country Club to support the West Orange Scholarship Fund as they recognized Mayor Robert Parisi for 20 years of service to both the township and school district.
Entertainment was provided by members of the West Orange High School Orchestra and Jubilee Choir.
Several hundred supporters turned out to contribute to the Parisi Family Scholarship Fund, one of the scholarships awarded each May to graduating seniors. The West Orange Scholarship Fund provides scholarships across socio-economic boundaries and grade point averages every year.
Rich Rizzolo, president of the West Orange Scholarship Fund, announced at the event that this year, they would be providing $52,000 for graduating West Orange seniors. Since its inception in 1927 the fund has dispersed over $1 million in scholarships. During the event, Parisi was awarded with the WOSF Educational Award.
In addition to the Parisi family scholarship, Parisi helped to procure the land for Liberty Middle School at no cost to the township and lobbied for improvements at the the high school sports facilities, including new turf at Lincoln Field and lights in Suriano Stadium.
Assemblyman John McKeon, former West Orange Mayor, noted, "When Jim Quinn (treasurer of the WOSF) told me that a scholarship could make the difference in providing books and laptops for graduating West Orange seniors, I was on board."
The West Orange High School Principal's Scholarship was initiated in 2014 by Hayden Moore and his team and is the newest addition to the growing list of scholarship contributors.
The mayor was then introduced by McKeon. "Heroes always do the right thing," said McKeon. "Regardless of the misinformation on social media, Rob Parisi has managed to bring the municipal budget in with a zero percent increase for four out of five years".
"Rob and Sheila made a decision to make West Orange their home and raise their family," he observed, mentioning the Parisi's children Kelly and Robert. "I was happy that Rob decided to run for Mayor in 2010," he noted. "Rob loves West Orange and wants the best for everyone".
Parisi then stepped to the microphone to express thanks for the recognition, thank his extended family, and make a few things clear.
"In senior year of high I found my voice," Parisi noted, as he acknowledged his high school English teacher, Ms Flynn. "I went on to get a degree in English literature, and my daughter Kelly has declared herself as an English major at Qunnipiac".
"My son Robert inherited my love of sports and history and his good-natured temperament," he continued. "I am blessed everyday," he said as he became emotional.
Parisi went on to describe his humble beginnings in politics after he and his wife moved to Cherry Street and were concerned about activities in Colgate Park. "The Eagle Rock Civic Association grew out of residents' concerns in 1994 - and somehow I was asked to become ERCA's president, though I was third person asked, and the first that agreed," he laughed.
"My family always taught me, 'don't point a finger - do it yourself," the Mayor said.
West Orange High School Soccer Coach Doug Nevins, who was unable to attend the event, sent a message via Rich Rizzolo. Parisi had made sure that the WOHS soccer team members, who in November won the state championship, received commemorative rings. Nevins, on behalf of the WOHS soccer team, sent a special ring for Parisi on behalf of himself and the team.
"Government can't fix the all the problems, but everyday people doing extra-special things are our greatest resource", Parisi concluded.