ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Six seniors at Robbinsville High School are among 16,000 semifinalists nationwide in the 69th -annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically-talented students now have an opportunity to compete for 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring.
The students from Robbinsville: Aidan Dinh, Nora Gray, Vedhanth V. Jayanthi, Asrith Katragadda, Arnav Ketineni and Pranav A. Ram.
“We are tremendously proud of the semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors,” said Robbinsville Schools Superintendent Brian Betze. “There were more than 1.3 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools who competed in this program. Our six seniors are among the highest-performing students in the country.”
The students, working with Robbinsville High School staff, submitted detailed scholarship applications with academic records, school and community activities, leadership initiatives, employment, and honors and awards. All six students have superb grades, strong recommendations from school staff, compelling essays and very high standardized test scores, Betze said.
The National Merit Scholarship Program, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955. Scholarships come from the program, as well as approximately 320 business organizations and higher education institutions.
National Merit Scholarship winners of 2024 will be announced beginning in April and concluding in July. The scholarship recipients will join nearly 375,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.
ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Allentown FFA reported the following activities over the summer:
Cookout We had our annual June chapter meeting and cookout on June 7 to finish out the school year. We made the most of what we could amidst the smoke from the Canadian Wildfires. There were lots of fun games like inside kickball and shop cornhole. We introduced the new leadership team of the Allentown FFA. We were also incredibly grateful to our alumni for coming back and helping make food for everyone. Overall, it was a fantastic way to kick off summer vacation.
POW-WOW The leadership team hit the ground running with POW (Performance Objective Workshop)-WOW. The first of many leadership training courses for officers. There was lots of planning for the year, as well as team-building activities to bring the leadership team together.
Monmouth County Fair Produce
The Monmouth County Fair was held July 26-29, 2023. Members and alumni from the chapter worked with the other Monmouth County FFA chapters at the FFA Produce stand. This event helps raise for all chapters funds to help support travel and other expenses throughout the year. Safe Tractor Operator Career Development Event (CDE)
During the summer, the Allentown FFA sent two contestants to the Burlington County Farm Fair to participate in the Safe Tractor Operation contest. During the contest, the members had to safely back up a four-wheeled wagon and a two-wheel trailer. They also had to operate a skid steer to carry a bucket of water and the contestants also had to operate a front-end loader.
Meat Evaluation & Technology Career Development Event
During the summer, the chapter sent a team of 4 individuals to participate in the Meat Evaluation & Technology CDE held in Jacksonville NJ. Participants in the competition delve into the science of meat. During this team event, students evaluate beef carcasses for quality and yield grade; identify various meat cuts and place carcasses; and identify wholesale and/or retail cuts. The team placed 2nd overall!!
The newly elected leadership team participated in a canoe trip down the Wading River to work on getting to know each other, learn to work together, and have fun! There were lots of good memories from having lunch along the river and the advisors splashing everybody!!
On August 29, the leadership team gave presentations and set up displays to show incoming freshmen what the FFA was all about. We wanted to spark interest and introduce them to our Agriculture program with its many opportunities. Allentown Officer Leadership Training
To finish up our summer of planning and preparing, the leadership team stayed over at the Allentown Presbyterian Church after Freshman orientation. We spent the day working with our Committees to plan the year’s events. In addition, there were various team-building activities to improve our teamwork. We ended the night with our sponsor’s dinner to communicate with our sponsors and discuss ways to improve the chapter and better connect with the community!!
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Nottingham High School Class of 2008 alumni, Colin Varanyak competed and won a gold medal in the BMX X Games in Ventura, California in July 2023. The X Games are an Olympics-style annual competition of “extreme sports.”
Colin attended Klockner Elementary School, Crockett Middle School, and graduated from Nottingham High School. “There were fields across from Klockner when I was a kid. I could not wait for school to end in anticipation of grabbing my bike and riding the trails there. Riding has always been a passion of mine,” shared Colin. Racing began for Colin at the age of five. He recalled bringing in his bike helmet and racing medals for show and tell in elementary school. “Racing became competitive for me at a very young age. My family would travel with me monthly as I competed across the country. It was a challenge balancing my school work and racing schedule as I was still in grade school. The intensity began affecting me and I lost the love of the sport from the stress. I stopped racing and focused on my school work, other sports, and spending time with friends,” shared Colin. It was during this time in eighth grade when Colin transitioned into riding freestyle. Initially a therapeutic endeavor, Colin didn’t see himself competing in freestyle riding. In high school he wrestled, ran track and field, and remained fit. “BMX was never an intended career. I planned to attend college and get a job,” said Colin
Colin was inspired by Nottingham High School teacher Ken Klek. “His course was one of my favorites as I worked with him on a video my senior year. That project work helped to prepare me to create the video and photo content I need now in my career. I thoroughly enjoyed that class and how much we learned from him. Nottingham High School provided me with a supportive environment and real world experience that helped prepare me for my future,” recalled Colin. After graduating from Nottingham High School, Colin attended Mercer County Community College for two years, then transferred to William Paterson University where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education (PS – 5th) with a minor in History (MS).
BMX has provided Colin the opportunity to travel and compete worldwide. His daily schedule is rigorous allowing for daily walks, riding, physical workouts, and communications via email, social media, and interviews. Residing in San Diego, CA, allows Colin to train outdoors all year long. “My biggest challenge is to ensure I never lose the love of riding. It’s always been my safe place; however, it can get very stressful,” expressed Colin. During Covid, Colin supplemented his income as a substitute teacher when he was about to give up competing and commit to full time work as an educator.
Approximately eighteen months ago, Colin signed with Adidas. “A game changer,” said Colin. “Signing with a major brand was a top goal of mine. This sponsorship provided travel, increased exposure, and allowed me to work on many projects,” stated Colin.
“Winning gold was a lifelong dream. In 2018, I won a silver medal, which I was very proud of. I knew winning gold was a bucket list goal of mine. I spent a lot of time preparing for this BMX X Games competition. In order to stay focused and enter the games at my best, I spent the weeks prior training exclusively,” recalled Colin. His mental preparedness was equally as important in this event. Colin believed talent would only take him so far. He knew he needed to be dedicated to this sport, stay focused, and always remain positive. Ten athletes were invited to compete worldwide in July. After receiving a gold medal, Colin was then invited to Ventura, CA, for additional contests.
“Congratulations to Colin on his success. We are proud to see one of our former students excel in their career and we will all be watching with Hamilton Pride as he continues to compete,” expressed Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Scott Rocco.
When asked what advice Colin would give students, he shared, “This is hard work. You need to remain focused and apply yourself daily. Be professional at all times. Stay organized, present your best self and your values. Also, pay attention to your social media and relationships. School, teachers, and lessons learned will help you prepare for success. Learn to be okay with failure. You will continue to fail until you don’t. You will learn and grow and progress if you put the work in.”
Photo and story provided by: Hamilton Township School District
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Dean Svecz, a 16-year-old resident of Hamilton Township and a vocal student at School of Rock Princeton, will be a member of the School of Rock AllStars, which is a touring ensemble of some of the top teen musicians from School of Rock franchises from across the country. Dean and his AllStars bandmates will perform at venues across four midwestern states from July 31 through August 5 to support mental health awareness as well as raise funds for the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS).
“The AllStars tour is going to be an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Svecz, who began as a student at SoR Princeton in 2020 and whose biggest inspirations are Elvis Presley and Freddie Mercury. “I’m looking forward to meeting new people, performing at incredible venues, and helping to support SPTS.”
Being a member of the AllStars represents the highest level of achievement for School of Rock music students. Fewer than 1% of 62,000 SoR students from across the country are selected to join the ensemble.
Dean and his Midwest Team band will have an authentic touring experience, including traveling on a tour bus, doing publicity, and starring in nightly performances at such venues as Zanzabar in Louisville, KY; Old Rock House in St. Louis, MO; Reggie’s Rock Club and the Lollapalooza Fest in Chicago; Fitzgerald’s Night Club in Berwyn, IL; and Hi-Fi Annex in Indianapolis, IN.
A portion of the ticket sales and donations that are collected during the School of Rock AllStars tour will support SPTS, which is dedicated to reducing the stigma around discussing suicide and empowering teens, parents, and educators with the skills needed to help youths in crisis.
Dean Svecz from Hamilton Township. Photo: provided
Dunkin’ awards 20 high school seniors and college students with $5,000 in academic scholarships to the institution of their choice
July 19, 2023
Dunkin’ and its greater Philadelphia-area franchisees, in partnership with Scholarship America, announced July 13, 2023, the recipients of its fourteenth annual Philadelphia Regional Scholarship Program. The program helps high school seniors and college students in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Kent and New Castle counties in Delaware pursue a part-time or full-time undergraduate degree at the institution of their choice.
From over 1,730 applicants, Dunkin’ and Scholarship America selected 20 students to receive a $5,000 academic scholarship to an accredited two or four-year college, university, or vocational-technical school of their choice for fall 2023. Dunkin’s Philadelphia Regional Scholarship Program was open to current part-time and full-time undergraduate students and high school seniors. Dunkin’ awarded a total of $100,000 to the 20 recipients who were selected based on their academic records, demonstrated leadership skills, and overall commitment to their schools and local communities.
To date, the Dunkin’ Philadelphia Regional Scholarship Program has awarded $700,000 in scholarships to 340 outstanding high school seniors and college students. The program was founded in 2009 by Dunkin’s Philadelphia-area franchisees to ease the financial burden of college for students throughout the region.
“On behalf of my fellow Philadelphia franchisees, we are honored to award these 20 exceptional students with the 2023 Dunkin’ Philadelphia Regional Scholarships,” said Perry Shah, local Dunkin’ franchisee and Philadelphia regional advertising committee chairman. “We are proud to continue the tradition of furthering students’ educational goals in our community and help lead them to a bright future.”
The 2023 Dunkin’ Regional Scholarship recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 5, 2023, at Cherry Street Pier in Philadelphia, PA. More details on the awards ceremony to come in the following weeks.
The 2023 Dunkin’ Regional Scholarship recipients are as follows:
Atlantic County, NJ • Olivia Palmieri: Galloway, NJ, Ocean City High School Berks County, PA • London Cerullo: Mertztown, PA, Brandywine Heights High School
Bucks County, PA • Laura VaBilliard: Holland, PA, Council Rock High School South • Sophie Schenkel: Pipersville, PA, Central Bucks High School East
Burlington County, NJ • Theodore Rumberger: Westampton, NJ, Rancocas Valley Regional High School
Camden County, NJ • Siehra Lovett: Pine Hill, NJ, Overbrook Senior High School • Alyssa Gallelli: Blackwood, NJ, Washington Township High School
Chester County, PA • Leon Dang: Chester Springs, PA, Downingtown STEM Academy • Yajat Gupta: Chester Springs, PA, Downingtown East High School
Delaware County, PA • Tyler Debusschere: Wallingford, PA, Strath Haven High School
Kent County, DE • Mylah Garcia: Dover, DE, Delaware State University
Lehigh County, PA • Forum Patel: Allentown, PA, Parkland High School
Mercer County, NJ • Ashley Wisser: Trenton, NJ, Steinert High School • Reuben Williams: Lawrenceville, NJ, Rider University
Montgomery County, PA • Alexandra Bari: Penn Valley, PA, William Penn Charter School
New Castle County, DE • Maanvi Sarwadi: Bear, DE, MOT Charter High School
Northampton County, PA • Austin Martellucci: Easton, PA, Easton Area High School
Philadelphia County, PA • Olivia Zhao: Philadelphia, PA, Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School • Rhea Kumar: Philadelphia, PA, Temple University • Evelyn Huang: Philadelphia, PA, University of Pennsylvania
Ashley Wisser: Trenton, NJ, Steinert High School –
Ashley Wisser is a recent graduate of Steinert High School, where she served as a member of the Key Club, Student Government Association, dance team, field hockey team, track and field team, Environmental Club and New Jersey Future Educators Association. Ashley is a peer leader and member of the National Honor Society, National Art Society, National Spanish Honor Society and academic honor roll student. In the fall, Wisser will be attending Salisbury University, where she plans to pursue a degree in Mathematics.
Reuben Williams: Lawrenceville, NJ, Rider University –
Reuben Williams is a current student at Rider University, where he is a recipient of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Award and the Dean’s List. Reuben is an assistant coach at Greenwood Park as he helps kids learn how to swim, assists the head coach as well as a pool technician and head lifeguard. Currently, Reuben is conducting original research on housing and immigration, with a goal to compare the housing crisis that immigrants face in Trenton, New Jersey versus Medellin, Colombia. In the fall, Williams will be entering his second year at Rider University, where he pursues a degree in Political Science.
ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Last evening June 15, the Allentown High School Class of 2023 held their Senior Class Car Parade though Allentown, Upper Freehold and Millstone Townships. The procession started in 2020 during the pandemic year when prom was canceled due to COVID-19. The tradition continues now in its fourth year. Members of the Hope Fire Company of Allentown/Upper Freehold Twp Firefighters and the Monmouth County Sherriff’s Office escorted the Senior Class Parade though the towns.
Classes of the 1980s raise $10,000 in “bail money” for beloved alma mater.
June 15, 2023
By Lisa Neuman
ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–On May 19, 2023, former Allentown High School student Scott Trethaway II turned himself in to Upper Freehold Township School District administration to serve one day of in-school suspension, district superintendent Mark Guterl reported.
Taken into custody by the Allentown Police Department and delivered to the school in the back of a patrol car, Trethaway looked contrite as high school principal Todd Pae recited the proclamation sealing his doom. The alleged suspect was then escorted into the school by retired English teacher Jane Samuelson, while current AHS students gathered at the front doors to boo him and record the arrest on their phones, presumably to make TikToks of the scene of public humiliation.
Trethaway, 52, had spent 35 years on the run from school administration. His crime? Mooning his fellow graduates and their families at his graduation ceremony–back on June 23, 1988.
Suspect’s past crimes come in handy for a cause
Catching Trethaway with his pants down, literally, was the late Douglas Van Dusen, then one of the assistant principals at AHS. Van Dusen, having barely tolerated four long years of Trethaway’s antics, sentenced the alleged suspect to serving one day of in-school suspension, affectionately known to students as “The Box.” But, because it was the last day of school, Trethaway went on the lam and never looked back until October 2022.
That’s when Trethaway’s high school football teammate, Thomas Falkowski, 52, was inducted into the AHS Hall of Fame. So many former classmates and teammates showed up to the homecoming game to see Falkowski, a member of the Class of 1989, receive his honor that they started brainstorming ideas for igniting a newfound sense of school spirit and pride. Trethaway and his leadership team got to work, building relationships with Guterl and Pae and planning a charity event that would be as fun as it was successful.
“Our alumni mean the world to us, and Mr. Trethaway has helped us reconnect with this growing group of dedicated Redbirds,” Superintendent Guterl said. “High school is always a special time for students, and the memories that everyone has of AHS seem to have created a lasting impact on the lives of our alums—there are few better compliments than that. We look forward to continuing our expanding relationship with the entire alumni community.”
For their part, these alumni—realizing they probably didn’t fully appreciate the high school while they were students—now found themselves deeply impressed with the academic and athletic programs, fine and dramatic arts, clubs, and other extracurricular programs AHS offers. In an era of deep budget cuts and financial constraints, they wanted to do their part to ensure the longevity of those programs for generations of students to come.
With Guterl and Pae’s help, an elaborate plan was hatched to apprehend Trethaway and ensure that he served his sentence. Bail money would be raised to spring him from the tiny classroom that for decades has housed many notorious high school criminals.
These alumni saved the AHS football team
Meanwhile, between October 2022 and May 2023, the newly established AHS 1980s Alumni Group grew to more than 850 members on Facebook. As a decade’s worth of classmates reconnected, swapped stories, recalled fond memories, shared old photos, and posted 80s-themed memes, they also raised the funds they would need to spring Trethaway from The Box and benefit AHS in the process.
This group of alumni are no strangers to reviving and revving up school spirit, however. As determined teenagers in the spring of 1986, they banded together to fight UFRSD’s school board when it attempted to dissolve the football team. Citing rising costs and a perpetually losing record, the board had recommended that canceling the program was the only prudent thing to do.
The student body disagreed wholeheartedly.
Outraged, brains, athletes, basket cases, princesses, and criminals joined forces and took their fight straight to the school board—and won. The managing editor’s op-ed in the Fall 1986 issue of The Nutshell, AHS’s student newspaper, read in part: “Once it was saved, it was up to us to prove the decision to keep football was the right one.”
Because their passion and commitment were a driving force in saving the football program from an unfortunate demise, they were elated when the 2010 team won its first division title.
But they were fully vindicated in 2016 when AHS won its first championship, the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional title, in a lopsided 41-6 victory over Brick Township High School. When the Allentown Police Department and Hope Fire Company Station 82-1, sirens blaring and lights flashing, escorted busses full of victorious football players, cheerleaders, and marching band members back into town after the game, the near-miss of the 1980s was suddenly just a memory.
But having had such an impact on AHS nearly 40 years ago wasn’t enough. Now, these alumni wanted to see how they could give back, and they wanted to give back big. So, on May 19, they turned Trethaway in, while still raising his “bail money” in the background.
It paid off. With Trethaway’s sentence served and his name cleared, on May 31 representatives of the alumni group handed Principal Pae and Superintendent Guterl a check for $10,000 and a promise of more to come.
“I can’t thank Mr. Trethaway and the alumni group enough for their generous donation of $10,000 that will benefit Allentown High School.” Guterl said. “When Scott approached us about the idea, it was definitely a unique one, but we could hear his energy and love for AHS come through. His ability to connect with alumni, his energy to make this happen, and his love for his alma mater definitely made this hope become a reality.”
Trethaway is now president of the group, which has already launched plans to apply for 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit status. The board of officers includes vice president Donna Erbe Creager (Class of 1989), treasurer Danalynn Marsh Byrne (Class of 1988), secretary Aaron Heller (Class of 1988), and steering committee Joshua Crome (Class of 1988), Stacey Frankel (Class of 1988), Brian Penrose (Class of 1988), and Nathan Wurtzel (Class of 1989).
“My vision for our future is to establish a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in order to support AHS programs and offer scholarships to current students who have excelled in academics, athletics, and the trades,” Trethaway announced to those gathered at the event’s afterparty, held at the Millstone Elks, the night he was sprung from The Box for good. “Our mission is simple: To support AHS students and programs by organizing fundraising and hosting events.”
“We have an amazing and diverse group of people with decades of experience and expertise in a multitude of areas and chosen fields,” he continued. “My goal is to establish a fun organization that is inclusive, involved, and succeeds through teamwork, something we can all be proud to be involved in.”
Officers from the AHS 80s Alumni Group present the $10,000 check they raised as bail money. L to R: Aaron Heller, Thomas Falkowski, Danalynn Byrne, AHS Principal Todd Pae, UFRSD Superintendent Mark Guterl.
Principal Todd Pae reads the proclamation announcing Trethaway’s capture and sentencing.
Retired English teacher Jane Samuelson poses with the suspect after turning him in to Superintendent Guterl and Principal Pae.
AHS football players in 1988, now in the 80s Alumni Group. Back row, L to R: Thomas Falkowski, Scott Trethaway, Brian Penrose. Front row, L to R: Brian Wangerien, Aaron Heller.
ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Allentown High School Alumni [non-profit] group is hosting a fundraiser to benefit AHS student academic and athletic programs. On May 19, 2023, AHS alum and founder of the AHS 1980s Alumni group Scott Trethaway, will serve a day in In-House suspension to raise money for the students of the beloved alma mater. 35 years ago, Trethaway was “sentenced” to a day of suspension for a practical joke he pulled on the day of graduation. He never served his time. Trethaway will “turn himself in” to the Allentown High School Administration and the alumni group hopes the community will join them in raising his “bail” money. Superintendent of Schools Mr. Mark Guterl has noted this is first time in the high school’s history that an alumni group has supported the students in this way. 100% of the donations will support AHS student programs.
The AHS 1980s non-profit group was formed in the fall of 2022 to support one of their own. Thomas Falkowski, class of ’89 was inducted into the AHS Sports Hall of Fame last October during 2022 Homecoming. This induction was especially significant because the Allentown football program was almost terminated in the late 1980s. Because of the tenacity, school spirit and passion of the student body, the football program was saved. Fast forward to 2016. Allentown High School won its first sectional football championship in the Central Jersey Group IV finals. Today, the AHS football program is holding their own in the overall standing.
The AHS 1980s Alumni group has grown to well over 800 members with the focus of reconnecting and reminiscing. Many of the friendships stemmed from participating in academic and athletic programs. With a mission to give back, this group is hoping to demonstrate to the current AHS students that their programs and the friendships that grow from them can last a lifetime. “These programs matter and so do the students.” says Trethaway. “If we can encourage and support both that’s what we want to do.”
Donations can be made through Venmo, @Redbirds4EverAlumni or PayPal.ME/AHSalumni4ever
ROBBINSVILLE – Brian Williams entered Robbinsville High School as a freshman in 2004 with his sights set on playing piano for Broadway productions. Then he got a taste of teaching.
“I was having a better time helping other people make music than making music myself,” said Williams, who as a student occasionally led choir classes when the instructor was out. “That’s how I caught the bug; the rest is history.”
Williams was part of the high school’s first graduating class in 2008, later earning a bachelor’s degree in music education and master’s degree in teaching from Westminster Choir College in 2012. He returned to the district, first teaching music at the middle school before moving to the high school in 2016.
Today, Williams is the high school’s choir director and director of the spring musical. From March 31-April 2, students are presenting the show “Pippin,” a widely acclaimed production about the son of a king who struggles to find his place in the world.
It’s an experience, Williams said, that is universally relatable to students and adults alike.
“Ultimately one of the reasons we picked the show is the main character is going through a crisis about where he fits in life, and teenagers are constantly evaluating where they fit,” Williams said. “Sometimes something extraordinary is incredibly ordinary. You take for granted what you have.”
About 70 students are involved in the production, on stage and in the crew. They have been working for months learning and rehearsing their lines, coordinating dance routines, painting sets and building props.
Among those students are Rachael and Bridget Godfrey, 17-year-old twin seniors who are leading key aspects of the show.
Rachael is the student technical director and stage crew coordinator who oversees everything from construction of the set to costumes, lighting design and sound control.
The role has helped Rachael strengthen her leadership abilities and management acumen. Those are skills she said will prove valuable throughout her life and career.
But school productions like the spring musical and fall drama can also help students find where they belong, an experience not unlike the lessons explored in “Pippin.”
“Being on crew always brought that sense of peace for me in middle school and high school. Crew always was something I could come back to and it made me very, very happy to be there,” Rachael said. “Whether it’s the people or the show we were doing, crew always feels like a family to me.”
Her sister, Bridget, plays the character Catherine, an on-stage lead in the show, and is one of the cast’s dance captains.
Bridget has long performed in productions outside of the school, including in community theater groups and venues in New York City.
That on-stage spark was lit when she began attending her older sisters’ high school productions as a child and became entranced by the magic of the stage.
“I always came out feeling so alive, and that’s something I want to send everybody home with,” Bridget said.
For Williams, the sisters’ experiences symbolize the power and potential of music. The productions are not just performances. They are learning opportunities that shape who students become and how they approach life.
“Music teaches to be diligent, to be humble, to believe in yourself, to take chances, to fail and know how to get up from that,” Williams said. “Stellar musicians, through their art, make us all better human beings.”
If You Go
What: Robbinsville High School spring musical “Pippin”
When: March 31-April 1 at 7 p.m., April 2 at 3 p.m.
Where: Robbinsville High School auditorium, 155 Robbinsville-Edinburg Road
Tickets: $12 for adults, $8 for students, $8 for seniors
Tickets are required for entry. To purchase tickets, visit
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–On March 13th, Nottingham High School (NHS) Step Team of Nottingham High School (N.J.), one of New Jersey’s best high school step teams, begins its quest for the 2023 National High School Performing Arts (NHSPA)
“Steptime at the Apollo” Step Championship. In a “March-Madness” type bracketed tournament, the competition’s first round matches will occur virtually, with the final four teams scheduled to compete at Harlem’s World-Famous Apollo Theater in April.
The Nottingham HS Step Team, based in Hamilton, N.J., has been stomping the Hamilton grounds with the Nottingham school spirit for several years. NHS Step Team actively performs at basketball games and various events at the school, throughout Hamilton Township and in Trenton, N.J. This year, the 13 active members are advised by Trish Tammaro and coached by NHS alumna Rachel Sanchez.
The competition begins with eight seeded teams paired off in head-to-head matches, with online fan voting battles to determine the top four teams. The third seeded NHS Step Team will face off against face sixth seeded Vision Steppers of New Rochelle (N.Y.), which has grown to more than 60 members strong and have performed and competed in many different cities across the country. The victor will advance to the NHSPA National Step Championship final four at the “StepTime at the Apollo” event on April 22nd.
Co-produced by NHSPA and the World of Step (WOS), the championship will feature action-packed “Mano a Mano” excitement, empowering steppers with the opportunity to compete like athletes for $3,000 in cash prizes, a National Championship, NHSPA Step All-American recognition and school pride.
“The NHSPA Step Championship is an important event for showcasing the talents of young performers on a national stage,” said Victoria Duruh, Chief Talent Officer of UEG. “Fostering this new talent is significant to UpStaged, as we are dedicated to supporting the growth of the next generation of performing artists – this championship in particular is an incredible platform for celebrating student performers who deserve the same recognition and celebration as athletes.”
WOS is the Nation’s preeminent youth step producer, platform, and educator. NHSPA and WOS are working together to create a truly exceptional championship weekend event to highlight the talents of these incredible performers.
“These talented high school steppers have an unbelievable opportunity to compete for a National Championship at the Nation’s most storied historically black theater in the most world renowned black cultural Mecca, Harlem,” said WOS Founder and CEO Jessica Remo. “This is the Superbowl of Step, being played out in the Madison Square Garden of Performing Arts Venues.”
Students in the Red Cross Club Organize the Community Event
March 15, 2023
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Robbinsville High School’s Red Cross Club collected 51 units of donated blood from community members in February, one of the largest totals in recent years.
“This is the biggest number I’ve seen since becoming the club’s adviser,” said teacher Sue Kanagawa, who began advising the club in 2017. “It’s amazing to see such community support for this important project.”
To put this year’s number in perspective, the club collected 47 units of blood in 2022, 25 units of blood in 2020, and 23 units of blood in 2019. A blood drive was not held in 2021 because of COVID-19.
Each unit of blood can be used by up to three patients, meaning this year’s donations could help as many as 153 individuals, according to the American Red Cross New Jersey Region.
Robbinsville’s Red Cross Club is one of the largest student organizations at the high school with about 90 members. They worked to plan, promote and manage a recent blood drive, while technicians from the American Red Cross set up stations and administered the blood donations. Students also served snacks to donors, including bagels donated by Bagels n’ Cream on Washington Boulevard.
For Sahana Prasad, a Robbinsville junior, volunteering for the club teaches her about the crucial role that blood drives play in keeping a stable supply.
“There’s really no substitute for blood and everyone has to do their part in helping others around the world,” said Prasad, the club’s secretary.
Someone in the United States requires additional blood or platelets every two seconds, which translates to a daily demand of 29,000 units of red blood cells, nearly 5,000 units of platelets and 6,500 units of plasma, according to the American Red Cross.
That urgency is what drove Suhani Agarwal to volunteer for the club, as well. The Robbinsville junior greeted donors at the door and helped ensure they had required documentation, among other duties.
Agarwal, Red Cross Club’s vice president, said serving others is a value that has long been instilled in her at home. Indeed, her mom was among those who donated blood.
“It makes me feel really nice to give back to my community,” Agarwal said. “It was great to have someone in my family donate. It was also nice to see how many people in our community who want to help.”
American Red Cross New Jersey Region CEO Rosie Taravella thanked students, staff and the Robbinsville community for their blood donations, noting the vast disparity between how many people need blood and the number of people who donate.
Robbinsville’s donations, Taravella said, will help bridge that gap.
“The need for blood is constant, and the students and staff at Robbinsville High School can be counted on to roll up a sleeve to help meet the need,” Taravella said. “One in seven patients entering a hospital will need a blood transfusion, but at the same time, only about three percent of Americans give blood. The American Red Cross is proud of the work the Robbinsville Red Cross Club puts into organizing blood drives and grateful for the humanitarian spirit exhibited at the school.”
Red Cross Club members promoted the blood drive with posters, social media and good old-fashioned word of mouth, especially in conversations between students and their parents, according to Shrika Yeddula, the club’s co-president.
“It’s a club that really opens up high schoolers to the world of volunteering; it is important to get involved in something that has greater purpose and could help other people,” said Yeddula, a senior who has been in the club for three years.
In addition to the blood drive, Red Cross Club collects food for military families, sends holiday cards to military personnel and hosts bake sales each year in support of the American Red Cross. The club also has raised money to fight wildfires and educate children about COVID-19 hygiene.
Abinaya Dharanikumar, the club’s treasurer, said she especially enjoys writing holiday cards to members of the armed forces. The club typically sends between 200 and 300 cards each year with messages that express gratitude to the recipients for their service.
“Everyone loves doing these cards,” said Dharanikumar, a senior who has been in the club since her freshman year. “For me personally I like making the cards because it is a way to show how much we appreciate them. Everyone feels the same way.”
How to Donate Blood
Download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Red Cross Club members.
Red Cross Club executive members.
Visitors prepare to donate blood after student volunteers checked their IDs
Red Cross Club student volunteers at the blood drive.
Red Cross Club student volunteers at the blood drive.
Hamilton, NJ. The Hamilton Township School District (HTSD) is proud of Steinert High School senior, Fadi Farag on being accepted to MIT to study Computer Science and Electrical Engineering this fall. “The Class of 2022 was the single most challenging year to be admitted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology ever. For the Class of 2022, 21,706 students applied to Massachusetts Institute of Technology of which 1,464 students were accepted, yielding an overall acceptance rate of 6.7%,” reported IvyLeaguePrep.com.
Fadi has lived in Hamilton Township for the last fifteen years having attended Langtree Elementary School and Crockett Middle School. Fadi’s favorite subject is Math, a subject he began to enjoy in elementary school. Fadi credits several teachers for helping him throughout his education at HTSD: Mrs. Cumming (Langtree Third grade teacher), Mrs. Mary Carlin Komjathy (retired Crockett Math teacher), Mr. Ryan and Ms. Blew (Steinert High School teachers). “In elementary school I saw a bunch of my friends messing around with computers and became interested. And then one YouTube video led to another … I love when you can use what you know and just learn more to apply it to anything you want to make. You can use math and / or physics concepts and put them together in a project to see your knowledge translate to something concrete and make your own things,” expressed Fadi.
Fadi is a dedicated student who spends an abundance of his time participating in school activities.
He is a member of the Steinert High School Robotics Club, the Debate and Mock Trial Teams, and the school newspaper club. He is also a sound engineer for the theater program. When not in school, Fadi spends his time doing homework, learning about new technology, creating new projects, playing games, and watching shows with his friends.
Fadi explained his college application process. “First, I sat down and made a list of 15 schools, nervous I wouldn’t get into many. I organized them by safety, mid-range, and reach schools. I completed the actual application process and found the task of describing my life in 650 words one of the most challenging aspects. I wrote my essays, assembled all the necessary information, and just went for it! I enjoyed submitting the MIT application as it was the most fun of all. MIT was one of my top choices and after doing research, I felt it was the best fit for me,” explained Fadi. When Fadi received his acceptance email, he was confused when he saw the confetti … very confused … explaining it took him three whole minutes to process what he read, and then after that he was in shock! He called his father first to tell him the news. Fun fact: The acceptance email was in Fadi’s Spam folder!
Fadi encourages other students to explore all that high school offers and get out of their comfort zone. Fadi explains, “I like that I can work with my hands now, a skill I learned in Robotics. Mock Trial has taught me how to think quicker on my feet and make arguments on the spot. Each experience builds your skillset. Theatre Tech Crew has helped me learn how to interact with different types of technology. My advice is to give it a try and, if you don’t like it, that’s okay.”
“As we begin acceptance season for our seniors, it is exciting to see how Fadi’s hard work, dedication, and curiosity for learning has resulted in his acceptance to MIT. We all look forward to his continued success,” shared Dr. Rocco, Superintendent of Schools.
Fadi Farag Photo by Laura Geltch
Steinert High School Robotics Team: Zero Gravity FRC Team 2180
Back Row: Rudra Patel, Robert Poppert, Ryan Liu, Dustin Crain, Dawn Papale, Diana Schulz, Fadi Farag / Front Row: Asadbek Ortikov, “Rattler”, Shaylin Curran
Photo by Laura Geltch
Steinert High School Mock Trial at the Trenton Courthouse
Left to Right: Ryan Liu, Rudra Patel, Asadbek Ortikov, Hannah Rak, Annesimone Farid, Alexander “AJ” Difalco, Sajid Ahmed, Fadi Farag
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–There are many benefits to the clean energy project that was installed in the parking lots of Robbinsville High School and the Pond Road Middle School this summer.
The school district will be saving more than $100,000 a year on energy costs and did not pay a penny for this public-private initiative approved by the State of New Jersey. There are also now solar canopies that will protect cars from the elements, while an education program is being created to use solar panels as a teaching tool for students in regard to the importance of green energy.
And, of course, the school district is also joining in the global effort to use solar as a way to fight off climate change.
“We could not be more pleased with this project,” said Schools Superintendent Brian Betze. “At absolutely no cost to taxpayers, we have been able to install millions of dollars of solar infrastructure in our parking lots, saving substantial electrical costs every single year.”
The school district contracted with HESP Solar of Montvale, which installed the two canopy systems through July and will sell excess energy on the power grid. The system will generate enough solar power to serve 300 homes.
One system is in the rear of the high school; the other is in the front parking lot of the middle school. The 5,300 solar modules will jointly produce 3 million kilowatts of electricity annually, replacing about 80% of the schools’ electrical consumption with renewable energy.
School officials negotiated the electric rate prior to the rise in inflation, at 4.7 cents per kilowatt hour with only a 1% increase per year, allowing the district to accurately budget its utility expenses over the next 15 years without concern of fluctuations in the market.
Nick Mackres, the district’s business administrator/board secretary, said the school district launched its solar energy program in 2015, when the district installed a roof-mounted solar system, generating 90,000 kilowatt hours per year, at Sharon Elementary School.
At the end of the power purchase agreement in 15 years, the school district could either ask the vendor to remove the solar panels at no cost, purchase the infrastructure at a discounted rate or extend the agreement.
“Every dollar I save in operations is a dollar more that can be used to fund education in the classroom and a dollar less we have to raise taxes,” Mackres said. “We are saving more than $100,000 a year at no cost to taxpayers for the betterment of all students and staff.”
School officials are eager to infuse solar energy lessons into the science and technology curriculum, explaining how the sun provides such a tremendous amount of energy that it can satisfy all of the Earth’s needs in a fraction of a day.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to bring clean energy at a reasonable price into our facilities,” said Rich Young, vice president of the Robbinsville Board of Education. “This state-of-the-art system will use the power of the sun to power our schools while saving the district tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs each year. Those savings can now be reallocated to improve curriculum and help create new opportunities for students and staff — real money that can be spent in the classroom where it’s most needed and most important.”
As part of the agreement with the solar company, the vendor will be providing additional solar panels that will be used in the classroom for lessons on green energy. Students would be able to connect a voltage meter that shows how the solar panels trap and generate electrical power.
The project also features an online kiosk, in which students and the community-at-large can track solar usage and its environmental benefits. With a little more than a month’s operation, the kiosk shows that the schools’ clean energy project is already equivalent to saving nearly 500 trees, more than 462,000 miles of driving vehicles, or offsetting more than 1 million pounds of carbon.
“I would like to express my appreciation to the school administration as well as the board of education for continuing our efforts to make the Robbinsville schools as clean and green as possible,” said Board President Vito Galluccio. “We are fortunate to be among a small contingent of school districts in New Jersey that have embraced solar energy as a way to cut energy costs while providing a new avenue of hands-on learning for our students.”
Robbinsville School District Solar System
Robbinsville Public School District recognizes our responsibility to protect the environment and is committed to reducing our carbon footprint. Each school building participates in solar energy programs to minimalize the impact our district has on the environment.
Robbinsville High School and Pond Road Middle School
The Robbinsville High School and Pond Road Middle School solar project was developed and constructed by HESP Solar, and was commissioned in the summer of 2022. The project consists of two canopy systems that jointly produce approximately 3,000,000 kWh of electricity annually, replacing over 80% of the schools’ electrical consumption with clean, renewable energy. In all, over 5,300 Waaree Solar modules were installed at Robbinsville High School & Pond Road Middle School for a total of 2.6 MW dc with 33 string inverters converting the solar energy into usable electricity.
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–The Senior Class at Robbinsville High School participated in the 10th Annual Senior Safety & Awareness Program on Friday, May 20, 2022. Each year the program varies in speakers or morning event scenarios. The event has been interrupted for the past two years due to the pandemic.
Students listened to a young person’s road to recovery and had the opportunity to ask him questions about his downfalls and decisions to seek help.
A video was made by faculty and staff who volunteered to share how a loved one’s addiction has impacted their own lives.
The second part of the program involved various stations: personal defense training for all students, trauma resulting from poor judgment, hands-on lessons about drunk, high, and distracted driving, as well as fire safety and prevention. Vehicle safety, including ride-sharing and hired transportation, was included also included in response to the past tragic loss of one of the high school’s graduates.
This year’s Annual Senior Safety and Awareness program was funded with the generosity and grants from Police Benevolent Association, Robbinsville C.A.R.E. – Community Addiction Recovery Effort, and the Robbinsville U Got Brains Group. Robbinsville Township, and Police and Fire Departments willingly donated personnel and materials and worked one on one with the students. The program is organized by the Principal, School Resource Officer, Student Assistance Coordinator, Facilities Coordinator, and teacher volunteers.
The program’s aim is to make a big impact on the students and the future decisions they will make as the Prom is here and college is just around the corner.
Above photos provided
Above photos from Robbinsville Township Fire Department Facebook page.