WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Circle of Rainbow Sisters Seeking Spiritual and Wellness Connection (CORESSWC) distributed nearly $24,052 in scholarships and awards to students from across the state of New Jersey during its third annual Financial Literacy Award Ceremony held on Friday at West Orange Town Hall.

CORESSWC’s Financial Literacy Program—which CORESSWC member Dr. Jennifer Payne-Parrish said strives “to develop the next generation of financially independent students”—serves to aid students in a variety of ways to ensure that they are not only financially responsible, but also able to make fiscally sound decisions in the future.

During his keynote speech, West Orange Township Council President Jerry Guarino impressed on those in attendance the importance of being financially literate and disciplined.

Sign Up for West Orange Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“It behooves us to make sure that all our communities are well versed in understanding financial responsibility,” said Guarino, adding that CORESSWC “has done a fantastic job” giving teenagers the “tools they’re going to need in the days after high school, and the days after college, when they themselves become parents, young adults, and having them [look] forward to the next generation.”

Newly appointed West Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Scott Cascone also commented during the ceremony.

“When we look at our country on a larger level, we are crippled with debt; we are crippled with government debt; we are crippled with credit card debt; we are crippled with college debt,” he said, adding that “being in debt is to not be free, so when you have that discipline, you have that freedom to make the choices in your life.”

Durring the ceremony, students received awards from three different programs according to their age range.

The Financial Discipline Award (FDA) is offered to students from fourth grade through sophomore year of high school. Students in this program attend workshops and seek to reduce their primary household expenses, including but not limited to gas, electricity, water and food.

Teenagers enrolled in this program must save their household at least $200, which is then placed into a 529 college savings account. These students also deposit proceeds from birthday gifts, allowances and earned income.

The Financial Readiness Academic Scholarship Award Program (FRASA), offered to high school juniors and seniors, consists of an essay and panel interview before students are eligible to win first, second and third prizes—this year totaling $10,500. Any juniors who applied for the award are also eligible to reapply next year as a senior.

This year, Brian Joshua Balthazar and Alieke Parrish tied for third place (each receiving $1,000), meaning that four seniors ultimately won.

“Everyone is a winner,” said CORESSWC President Maritza Brown, who explained that other students who applied but did not win the scholarship were awarded $200 book scholarships from Barnes & Noble.

According to Brown, all funds won are held in escrow; “and when they need it, [CORESSWC sends] those checks to the school.”

She continued that the seniors who won are automatically added to the Documentary Award Program (DAP). CORESSWC follows them through college, where students must earn a B or higher in any math or finance class, in their general subject major and overall GPA in order to remain eligible, Brown added.

Starting this year, students must also complete a weekly internship with CORESSWC in addition to documenting their academic progress.

Brown explained that the purpose of DAP is to “be able to eliminate that [college] debt when they enter college or pay it down significantly.”

For the 2018-2019 school term, current DAP recipients with a GPA of 3.5 or higher have earned $125 per class per semester to be put toward debt repayment.

At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, Brown thanked all the parents in attendance for supporting their children throughout their financial journey.

“We couldn’t do it without the parents because it takes a village to make this happen,” she said.

In addition to Guarino and Cascone, other local dignitaries in attendance included East Orange Campus High School Principal Dr. Ronnie Estrict, South Orange-Maplewood Public Schools Board Member Stephanie Muhammad and Justin Brown, Aide to East Orange Mayor Ted Green.

Click HERE to learn more information about the financial literacy programs.

The annual Women Who Rock in the Kitchen (WWRKitch) Competition, which helps fund CORESSWC’s Financial Literacy Program will be held on April 5, 2020.

Click HERE to see all photos taken during the event.

All photos were provided by Deborah Balthazar.

The Awardees and Participants for the FDA, FRASA & DAP were announced as follows:


Amina Diop

Ariel Victor

Coralie Pierre

Isaiah Clay

Kai Gibson

Kay Raymond

Kumura Khalfani

Olivia Raymond

Rhode Gardere

Samia Bruno

Simone Dalecourt

Tiye Khalfani

Walter Pierce




Rashawn Green - 1st Place ($3,000)

Enoca Jones - 2nd Place ($2,500)

Alieke Parrish - 3rd Place ($1,000)

Brian Joshua Balthazar - 3rd place ($1,000)



Melissa Rose - 1st Place ($1,500)

Ryianna Glasper - 2nd Place ($1,000)

Noura Kakadendi - 3rd Place ($500)


Barnes and Noble Book Scholarship Recipients

Alonie Dowden

Cristin Payne

Fiona Mondestin

Kenyelle Ojentis

Miles Adedjouma

Renee Dews

Star Lawson



Estelle Eustache

Gabrielle Rodriguez

Imani Nyame

Jacques Clovis

Julie-Ann Destine

Katherine Myerson

Obed Narcisse