Trenton, NJ – First Lady Mary Pat Christie announced $110,000 in New Jersey Heroes Spirit of a Hero Scholarships on May 22 during a ceremony at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s official residence in Princeton. Twenty-two students from throughout the state, including three from Monmouth County, will each be receiving a $5,000 scholarship to pursue post-secondary education opportunities. Mrs. Christie launched the scholarship program in 2013.

“This year’s Spirit of a Hero recipients are a deserving group of young people who are making a difference and changing lives in their communities,” said First Lady Mary Pat Christie. “From anti-bullying programs and initiatives for the homeless to redistributing musical instruments to students in need, I’m overwhelmed by the commitment to service and volunteerism demonstrated by these young men and women. New Jersey Heroes is once again proud to recognize their accomplishments and provide this scholarship program to help them pursue a successful future.”

The scholarship winner from Monmouth County are:

  • Tyler Davis Connellan, Saint Rose High School, Belmar (Monmouth): Four years ago, Tyler created “Cheer Up with Make-Up,” a program for children in the pediatric wing of Jersey Shore Medical Center. Since then, she has spent on average of 3 hours a week at the hospital lifting the spirits of pediatric patients by providing manicures, pedicures, hair-styling, and temporary tattoos. This successful program is now being expanded to Monmouth Medical Center. Tyler will be attending Villanova University College of Nursing this fall.
  • Gordon Oxley, Allentown High School, Clarksburg (Monmouth): For the past 3 years, Gordon has dedicated himself to his work as an Instructor at Celtic Charms Therapeutic Horse Park, where he connects with children affected by physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. Working with his horse, Finn, Gordon helps these children with verbal development and socialization skills. Gordon will be attending Stevens Institute of Technology this fall.
  • Kelly Elizabeth Pretz, Manasquan High School, Brielle (Monmouth): When Kelly was 10 years old, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. This has translated into a lifelong passion for raising and promoting epilepsy awareness. Kelly was able to turn what could be a devastating diagnosis into a call for action. Raising money for the Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey, creating a Teen Mentoring Program, traveling to Washington, DC to speak with congressional leaders, and writing and publishing a book, she has made a profound impact on global awareness of this seizure disorder. Kelly will be attending Bucknell University in the fall.

New Jersey Heroes worked with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and HESAA (Higher Education Student Assistance Authority) to promote the scholarship. This year, more than 700 students applied for the Spirit of a Hero Scholarship.

To be considered  for the scholarship, candidates fulfilled several criteria, including a demonstrated commitment to volunteerism and community contribution; New Jersey residency; U.S. citizenship; submission of a high school transcript with a letter of recommendation from a current teacher or advisor; have good academic standing with their secondary school and enroll as a student at an accredited college/university or a vocational training school in the 2014-2015 school year (Fall or Spring Semester).

New Jersey Heroes is an initiative of First Lady Mary Pat Christie that showcases the positive and unique ways people and organizations are impacting New Jersey and their communities. To nominate a hero, go to http://newjerseyheroes.org/index/ and follow the application instructions to submit the person you believe is a true New Jersey Hero.