WEST ESSEX AREA, NJ — The West Orange Board of Education's (WOBOE) "Parade of Honors," which will now be recognized semi-annually in the middle and at the end of the school year, recently recognized the achievements of outstanding students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community who have contributed greatly to the West Orange Public Schools district.

The parade—which was co-hosted by outgoing West Orange High School (WOHS) seniors Selam Woldai, student council president, and Mike Petros, student council vice president—focused more so on the academic, athletic and artistic achievements of the students.

WOHS seniors Sessina Dani and Aarushi Bhatnagar, liaisons to the WOBOE, were both recognized for their service to the board as they finished their term in the newly created position. Both are soon to be college-bound, with Dani attending Princeton University and Bhatnagar attending Rutgers University.

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Also recognized was Redwood Elementary student Isabella Chan for her recent television appearance as a superhero on HBO's “Sesame Street.” After Chan successfully auditioning for the part, Redwood principal Timothy Beaumont said that Chan “demonstrated enthusiasm, confidence and skills that she has developed during her time as a student in the district.” The episode in which she appears, entitled “Four Furry Superheroes,” first aired on HBO in April 2019 and, according to Beaumont, has “aired numerous times since.”

The WOHS English Department recognized Amber Goldberg, Maria Nalieth and Simone Hilliard for their outstanding achievements in creative writing, a course taught by Janine Sullivan. After submitting stories for the 2019 New Jersey Council Teachers of English (NJCTE) Writing Contest, Nalieth earned a bronze medal for her story “Broken Hearts,” Amber Goldberg earned a silver medal for her story “War Among Witches” and Simone Hilliard earned a gold medal for her story “Bad Luck.”

According to Elizabeth Veneziano, Acting Assistant Superintendent and English Language Arts (ELA) Supervisor for Grades 6-12, Hilliard’s story won gold because “her story demonstrated deep understanding of themes running through the [Institute of Humanities (IH)] program, mastery of literary devices, and great creativity.” This qualified Hilliard for the prestigious “Governor’s Award in Arts Education,” which she received in May.

WOHS senior Vanessa Lettman, who has the distinction of being the first female student from WOHS to be accepted to West Point, was recognized as a Dylan Pennell Mountaineer and became the first recipient of the Trailblazer Award, which was created by the WOBOE last year.

“This award is bestowed upon a student (or students) whose ideas and actions result in a lasting contribution to the West Orange School District,” said board member Mark Robertson, adding that Lettman’s acceptance to West Point is the “culmination of her leadership by example,” which she cultivated during her time in the district.

Robertson also read a letter of congratulations from Pennell, a WOHS Class of 2014 alumnus and a Naval officer who was stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time of publication.

Among the administrators and educators recognized was Marie DeMaio, who received a standing ovation as she was awarded a “Legacy Recognition” for being the longest-serving educator and administrator with 57 years of outstanding excellence in education at Washington Elementary School.

DeMaio, who started her career as a second-grade teacher at Washington and has previously taught Mayor Robert Parisi, currently serves as the principal. According to board Vice President Sandra Mordecai, DeMaio has been “making great strides” at the school ever since.

Due to her extraordinary service to her students, school district and the community at large, the West Orange Scholarship Fund (WOSF) recently established a permanent endowment in her name and a scholarship “to be given to a graduating senior with a portion of the money to be given back to a project of her choice.”

WOHS music education teacher William Farley also received a standing ovation as he was recognized for his “Outstanding Citizenship” for instruction beyond the classroom. Working at WOHS for 19 years, Farley was recognized for his direction of the Jubilee Choir as well as for his coaching of the award-winning boys step team, which was No. 1 in the state from 2012 and 2017 and remains among the top teams today.

Sangeeta and Sunil Badlani of The Nikhil Badlani Foundation were recognized for their “Education Advocacy & Collaboration” by raising student awareness and policy advocacy for traffic safety.

Cynthia Hadley-Bailey, President of the Rotary Club in West Orange, was recognized for her role in providing scholarships, dictionaries, and backpacks to students within and outside the West Orange Public School District.

Treats provided by the West Orange Culinary Arts Program went quickly following the ceremony. Photos from the event are courtesy of Cynthia Cumming.

A full list of honorees from last week's Parade of Honors can be seen below:

  • Student Liaisons
  • Educator of the Year, West Orange Chamber of Commerce
    • Kimya Jackson
      • Redwood Elementary
  • Legacy Recognition
    • Marie De Maio
      • Washington Elementary school
      • Years of Service and dedication Washington School and the West Orange Community
  • TV Appearance (HBO's Sesame Street)
    • Isabella Chan
      • Redwood Elementary
  • School and NJ Geography Bee Champion
    •  Matthew McDonald (Liberty Middle School)
  • ELA Recognition
    • Maheen Aman, Artuo Rodriguez & Jennifer Studnicky
      • Edison Middle School & WOHS 
      • NJ Department of Education Professional Development
  • Outstanding Accomplishment in Creative Writing
    • Amber Goldberg
    • Maria Nalieth
    • Simone Hilliard
      •  West Orange High School
      • 2019 New Jersey Council of Teachers of English Writing Contest (NJCTE)
      • Governor's Award in Arts Education
  • Regional Chemistry Olympiad Winner
    • Max Dickman
      • West Orange High School
  • Math Recognition
    • Senay Dani, Carlos Herbozo, Nooha Kawsar, Masarrah Assad, & Nathaniel Vinoya
      • Algebra 2 Team
      • Essex County Math League - 3rd place
    • Emily Liew, Ayush Narain, Valentina Pappano, Trinity Rojas & Carter Sampson
      • Geometry Team
      • Essex Country Math League - 3rd place
    • Daniel Feinblatt, Morriel Kasher, Max Dickman, Daniel Bradley & Zackary Dong
      • Calculus Team
      • Essex County Math League - 3rd Place
  • FCCLA State Competition Winners
    • Marissa Edelman, Jordan Fenske, Nanma Biju, Lorelle Adames, Ashley Azana, Blessing Ezebube, Kori Issac, and Faith Nzegwu
      • West Orange High School
      • 2 gold medals, 2 silver medals, & 1 bronze medal
  • Skills USA State Championships: Quiz Bowl Third Place
    • Shrey Sanghvi, Brett Zeligson, Stanley Lim, & Anay Badlani
    • West Orange High School
  • Music Recognition
    • William Farley
      • West Orange High School
      • Jubilee choir, jazz trio, black history month dinner, and the singing and arrangements at every graduation
  • Nomination for Governor's Award in Arts Education
    • Kristy Lopez
      • Liberty Middle School
      • 39th Annual Governor's Awards in Arts Education. National Art Educators Association Award of Excellence for Youth Art Month
  • Arts Recognition
    • Proggya Paromita
      • Scholastic Arts Competition
      • Scholastic Arts Silver Key Award and 2nd Place in the mixed media category for the congressional Art show
    • Destiny Diggs-Pinto
      • 2019 National YoungArts Foundation
      • 2019 National YoungArts Foundation Merit winner in JAZZ DOUBLE BASS
    • Louis Kravits
      • North Jersey Area Band, Region 1 Band, All-State Band, & All-Eastern ensemble
      • Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Athletic Director of the Year
    • Ron Bligh
      • West Orange Public Schools
      • Super Essex Conference & Essex County
      • Athletic Directors Association
  • Sports Recognition
    • Tyler Galatini - Golf
    • Davey Campbell - WOHS Hockey - All-Time Goals Record
    • Boys Volleyball - Boys Volleyball Team
    • Girls Basketball
    • Flecia Blake - Girls Track & Field - most # of athletes
    • Bowling team
  • Award for Youth Development & Educational Partnership
    • Tim Brennan
      • Youth Development & Educational Partnership
      • Scout Master for Boy Scouts Troop 2
      • Former President of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce
  • Education Advocacy & Collaboration
    • Sangeeta and Sunil Badlani
      • The Nikhil Badlani Foundation
      • Raising student awareness, activism, and policy advocacy for traffic safety
  • Rotary Club Recognition
    • Cynthia Hadley-Bailey
      • President, Rotary Club
      • Scholarships, Dictionaries, & Backpacks
  • Township Recognition
    • Sally Malech
      • West Orange Chamber of Commerce
      • West Orange Chamber awards annual scholarships and member companies providing internships
  • Trailblazer Award
    • Vanessa Lettman
      • Dylan Pennell Mountaineer
      • 2019 Trailblazer Award