spirit hero 2015 groupFour Monmouth County Students Among Twenty-Five Deserving High School Seniors Receiving $5,000 Scholarships for Post-Secondary Studies

Trenton, NJ – First Lady Mary Pat Christie has announced that four Monmouth County students are among 25 recipients of the 2015 New Jersey Heroes Spirit of a Hero Scholarship during a ceremony at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s official residence in Princeton.

The $5,000 scholarships, which emanate from the Heart of a Hero program for military veterans, continues the Christie Administration’s commitment to assist New Jersey students pursue post-secondary education opportunities.

“This is our third year for the Spirit of a Hero Scholarship program and I am continually amazed by the character and commitment demonstrated by our young people in taking on serious issues impacting communities throughout New Jersey,” said Mrs. Christie. From human trafficking and environmental stewardship to STEM education and programs for individuals with special needs, all of our applicants and awardees are doing outstanding work to give back and help improve the lives of others. With the Spirit of a Hero Scholarship, we are recognizing and honoring these good deeds while helping these young adults to achieve their career goals. This is a truly inspiring day that represents the best of New Jersey.”

Since its inception in 2013 to date, New Jersey Heroes has awarded $335,000 in scholarship funding to 67 students from across the state through the Spirit of a Hero program.

Monmouth County’s 2015 Spirit of a Hero recipients are:

spirit hero 2015 luisa rinaudoLuisa Rinaudo, Middletown High School, Middletown (Monmouth): Having a brother with Down syndrome, Luisa Rinaudo has always felt a special connection with those who are developmentally disabled. Aside from volunteering over 1,000 hours to the special needs community, Luisa started a program called Just Dance - a bi-annual dance for people with special needs. Just Dance not only provides a wonderful experience for those with special needs, but also helps them with their social skills and confidence as they grow. Luisa will begin studying at Seton Hall University this fall, majoring in education with a focus in speech language pathology.

spirit hero 2015 elijah rodriguezElijah Christian Rodriguez, Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft (Monmouth): Elijah has been involved in a number of weekly volunteer activities for over 6 years.  From delivering bagels weekly to a senior citizen community to stocking shelves at his local food pantry, Elijah sets out to make a difference.  He describes one of his most memorable accomplishments as organizing a Hurricane Sandy Relief Walk, which encouraged his school to get involved annually in Make A Difference Day efforts. After raising over $8,000, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Walk was honored at the Make A Difference Day Awards with an additional $10,000 for the Church of Christ in Union Beach. Elijah will attend Harvard College where he will be on a Pre-Medicine track.

spirit hero 2015 sarah wolfordSarah Wolford, Allentown High School, Allentown (Monmouth): After attending many 'Sweet 16' parties her sophomore year, Sarah began to wonder about the girls and boys who have never experienced a birthday party before. She came up with the concept of Birthday in a Box, where she collects all the items necessary to have a birthday celebration and packs them into a box to ease the burden of purchasing birthday supplies for low income families. She has also been volunteering with Jersey Cares for the past 4 years, a non-profit foundation that organizes volunteer events throughout NJ. Sarah will be attending Loyola University this fall.

spirit hero 2015 ellen wuEllen Wu, Freehold High School, Freehold (Monmouth): Ellen Wu had been attending the Hua Xia Chinese School South in Marlboro to learn Mandarin since she was a toddler.  Over the years, she spent time with many senior citizens and recent immigrants who were native Mandarin speakers but struggled with English as their second language. So, Ellen decided to begin teaching her very own English class at the school.  Her curriculum has developed extensively over the course of 4 years, creating new grammar, vocabulary, and ESL lesson plans to teach every week. Ellen will be attending Northwestern University's Honors Program in Medical Education this fall.

Other Spirit of a Hero scholarship awardees include:

·         Faith Adams, Bergenfield High School, Bergenfield (Bergen)

  • Sankalp Aggarwal, Bridgewater Raritan High School, Bridgewater (Somerset):

      ·         Russell Arno Bauer III, Seneca High School, Tabernacle (Burlington)

  • Madi Beumee, Morris County School of Technology, Denville (Morris)
  • Laura Elizabeth Cavanagh, Immaculata High School, Somerville (Somerset)
  • Kaela Lyn Denno, Mount Olive High School, Flanders (Morris)
  • Mark Dominguez, Jefferson Township High School, Oak Ridge (Morris)
  • Stephanie Harvey, Eastern Regional High School, Voorhees (Camden)
  • Gunnar Tyler Henning, Warren Hills Regional High School, Washington (Warren)
  • Brianna F. Hoody, Bergen County Academies - Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Hackensack (Bergen)
  • Abhiram Karuppur, The Pingry School, Basking Ridge (Somerset)
  • Jon Kubricki, Pinelands Regional High School, Little Egg Harbor (Atlantic)
  • Alexander Louie, Hillsborough High School, Hillsborough (Somerset)
  • Mackenzie Ann Olson, Clearview Regional High School, Mullica Hill (Gloucester)
  • Katie Alexandria Ramirez, Elizabeth High School - Upper Academy, Elizabeth (Union)
  • Tomas Roberto Sanchez, Highland Park High School, Highland Park (Middlesex)
  • Benjamin Schragger, Hopewell Valley Central High School, Pennington (Mercer)
  • Emily Jane Shapiro, James Caldwell High School, West Caldwell (Essex)
  • Maya Sicherer, Fair Lawn High School, Fair Lawn (Bergen)
  • Lindsay Testa, Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood (Bergen
  • Carolina Andrea Zuluaga, Academy of the Holy Angels, Demarest (Bergen)

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 must meet several criteria, including a demonstrated commitment to volunteerism and community contribution; be a New Jersey resident and U.S. Citizen; submission of a high school transcript and a letter of recommendation from a current teacher or advisor; be in good academic standing with their secondary school and enroll as a student at an accredited college/university or a vocational training school in the 2015-2016 school year (Fall or Spring Semester).

New Jersey Heroes is an initiative First Lady Mary Pat Christie began in 2010 to showcase the positive and unique ways people and organizations are impacting New Jersey and their communities. To nominate a hero, go to newjerseyheroes.org and follow the application instructions to submit the person you believe is a true New Jersey Hero.