The Columbia High School Scholarship Fund hosted its annual reception on Thursday, June 9, awarding $161,500 in scholarships and bringing together scholars and their sponsors.
The informal ceremony was touching in that it united many of the 106 awarded scholars with the people who created and funded their scholarships. Each sponsor had a story behind his or her fund, often related to the memory of lost loved ones who were educators or educational leaders.
The students proved worthy of their awards. At one point during the reception, which was held in the Columbia High School Library, each student stood and named his or her college or university and field of study. The list was impressive.
Architecture, mechanical engineering, landscape design, speech language pathology, music, dramatic arts, biochemistry, psychology, pharmacy, business management, and landscape design were among the majors.
Institutions of higher learning included Howard University, Rutgers, St. John’s, Oberlin, the University of Michigan, Kean University, Berkeley College of Music, Old Dominion, Johns Hopkins, Towson, NJIT, Fairleigh Dickinson and more.
Many students were meeting their sponsors for the first time. Board of Education member Chris Sabin and his father Ed were on hand to award a scholarship, named for Chris’ mom and former South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education President Sabarah Sabin. This year’s scholarship was awarded to Neika Louisdort who is attending Montclair State University.
Former CHS English teacher Meg Wastie spoke movingly of her former colleague and science teacher Marty Panek — known as “Mr. Physics” — who passed away suddenly last year at the age of 62. Panek’s brothers Thomas and Mike presented scholarships in Panek’s name to Harold Ofori (studying Biochemistry at Rutgers in New Brunswick) and Fermin Martinez (Mechanical Engineering, Fairleigh Dickinson University).
Dr. Jacqueline Cusack, Superintendent of Schools for the Pequannock, NJ school district delivered a scholarship in her mother’s memory and addressed the students.
Cusack counseled students to evaluate their beliefs, asking what they could contribute to society as a whole even as they worked for their own benefit.
“I implore you to avoid making excuses,” said Cusack, who invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “No one is free until we are all free.”
To find out more about the Columbia High School Scholarship Fund and to donate, visit: www.chssf.org.
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