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April 26, 2013


(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held its 10th Annual “Essex County Celebrates Youth” program on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, at the Hall of Records.  This happy and heartwarming event is held each year to acknowledge and encourage outstanding young people throughout the County who have already accomplished and contributed so much at a young age, and proven themselves to be role models for their peers.

This year’s honorees were: Nya Carter, a 5th grade student at the Cicely L. Tyson Elementary School in East Orange; Shaina Filian of Newark, a student at Rutgers University – Newark; Nicholas Gould, a senior at Nutley High School; Zachary Jones, a junior at Montclair High School; Stefan Lenz of South Orange, a junior at The Craig School in Lincoln Park; Chelsie Riche, a senior at Irvington High School; Donald Rock, Jr., a senior at Belleville High School; and Isaiah Thomas of Maplewood, a 9th grade student at Columbia High School.

Freeholder President Blonnie Watson opened the program by saying, “For the past 10 years we’ve made a commitment to recognize the accomplishments and talent of Essex County youth.”  She continued, “Today we celebrate 8 extraordinary young people, and we hope this recognition will encourage them to continue to do well in all their endeavors.”

Pictured above are Nya Carter of East Orange (front, center), with Chelsie Riche of Irvington (center, left) and Shaina Filian of Newark (center, right), and in the 2nd row (left to right), Stefan Lenz of South Orange, Isaiah Thomas of Maplewood, Donald Rock, Jr., of Belleville, Nicholas Gould of Nutley, and Zachary Jones of Montclair.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

Nya Carter of East Orange, a 5th grade student at Cicely L. Tyson Elementary School, receives her commendation from Freeholder Carol Clark, also of East Orange.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

NYA CARTER of East Orange is a 5th grade honors student at the Cicely L. Tyson Elementary School where her major is dance.  As a 4th grader, she made history when she was selected by her schoolmates to be Student Council President, making her the first female and first 4th grader ever to serve in that role.  She scored “Advanced Proficiency” in Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics and Science on the NJ ASK tests as a 4th grader, and her most recent report card contained “straight A’s” for the 9th consecutive marking period. 

Nya began displaying her vocal and dancing abilities at a young age, first dancing in a church youth praise dance ensemble at the age of 3, when she amazed congregants not only with her ability, but also with her confidence and zeal.  A born again Christian, she is actively involved in the Youth Ministry at New Hope Baptist Church where she participates in the Youth Dance Ministry and is always willing to serve in any capacity required, whether leading prayer, reading scripture or delivering the 6th Word in the “Seven Last Words of Jesus”.  Last month, Nya embarked on an exciting new quest when she auditioned for the Broadway production of Disney’s “The Lion King” at the world-renowned Apollo Theater in Harlem.  After many call-backs, she won the role of “Young Nala” over hundreds of other hopefuls, and will join the national touring cast on June 4th when it begins a 5-week engagement in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Nya aspires to attend medical school and become a Board Certified Pediatrician, and is the daughter of her proud mother, Gena Toler Carter, and the sister of her five siblings, Mark, Isaiah, Christopher, Nia and Robert, Jr.

Freeholder Carol Clark of East Orange described her honoree as an unbelievably talented, intelligent and adorable young lady, and in making her presentation to her said, “Nya, you can be sure I will be following  your progress in school and on the stage and, God willing, I will be there in the audience when you graduate from medical school!”

Shaina Filian of Newark, a student at Rutgers-Newark, receives her commendation from Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla, also of Newark.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON
SHAINA FILIAN was born in Newark 20 years ago, but her family came to this country from the South American nation of Ecuador before her birth.  She is very proud of her Ecuadorian heritage, and has traveled to Ecuador over the years to help the less fortunate;  she volunteered at a nursing home in her family’s hometown where she also handed-out essential supplies to residents on a regular basis; and she also organized a toy drive here in Newark for the children of Ecuador, and then traveled to Ecuador to distribute the toys and other goods to disadvantaged children in the capital of Quito who’d lost their parents, and to underprivileged children in other cities.  Shaina was recognized by the City of Newark for her volunteer activities when she was presented with a certificate for “Outstanding Service to the Community”. 

Shaina earned her Associate’s degree in Biology at Essex County College, where she was named to the Dean’s List every semester, and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Rutgers University in Newark.  She hopes to attend medical school to specialize in open-heart surgery, and eventually to take her medical skills to developing countries where she will be able to provide proper care to those who typically do not have access to quality medical care.  Shaina is the daughter of her proud parents, Jaime and Blanca Filian.

Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla explained that he selected Shaina as his honoree for many reasons, but also because he, too, is Hispanic, having come to the U.S. from Honduras as a young boy.  “I think of the United States as the most truly land of freedom and opportunity, and know Shaina is a young woman who will take that to the bank and then back to her community”, said Bobadilla, “and that’s special, because people need to realize where they come from.”

Freeholder Brendan Gill of Montclair (right) presents the Freeholder Board’s commendation to his honoree, Nicholas Gould, a senior at Nutley High School.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON
NICHOLAS GOULD of Nutley is an 18-year old senior at Nutley High School where he has been active with both the Key Club and the Student Council since he was in the 9th grade. 

He has also served his community as a member of the Nutley Volunteer Emergency and Rescue Squad since May of 2010, where he volunteers 24 hours per week helping to clean the building and trucks, and to assess patients’ medical conditions by interviewing them and taking their blood pressure.  In his desire to further help his fellow citizens in their times of need, Nicholas earned his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and CPR certifications and attended numerous classes, including: Working In Confined Space, Angle Rescue, Boating for Water Rescue, Auto Extrication and Rope Training. 

After he graduates from Nutley High School, Nick will attend the Mahwah Campus of Lincoln Technical Institute where he will major in Automotive.  He is the son of his proud parents, Maryann and Harry Gould.

When introducing his honoree, Freeholder Brendan Gill commented that it couldn’t be a better time to recognize Nicholas for his service on the Volunteer Emergency and Rescue Squad, referring to the aftermaths of the recent terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, when the talents and commitment of first responders was so evident.  “Nicholas, it is an honor for me to thank you for all your efforts to assist the residents not only of Nutley, but also Essex County, and to recognize you for the outstanding and civic minded young man you are… the effort and train you have put in will serve you well, and is much needed in these times.” 

Freeholder Gerald Owens of South Orange (right) presents the Board’s commendation to his honoree, Zachary Jones, a junior at Montclair High School.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

ZACHARY JONES of Montclair is a 17-year old junior at Montclair High School where he plays percussion in the school band.  He also has a keen interest in flying, and has been a member of the Eagle Flight Squadron, Inc., of East Orange for the last three years.  He served as Captain for the first two years, and this year, as Commander, he represented Eagle Flight Squadron as the keynote speaker at a United Airlines event held at Newark Liberty International Airport.  And just recently, he completed his solo test to earn his Student Pilot’s License under the leadership of his Flight Instructor, Captain Stephen Lind. 

Zachary also attended the U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Youth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Program last summer.  His leadership qualities were also recognized when he was chosen to be a Student Delegate to the Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., Fraternity Leadership Development Institute Conference held in New York City last year, as well as when he was selected to represent American Legion Crawford Crews Post 251 of Montclair at the Boys State Program this school year.  Zachary has also volunteered for many community organizations and events, including: the East Orange Senior Services and East Orange Memorial Day Parade; the Montclair 4th of July and African-American Parades; the Saint Peter Claver Church Annual Bazaar in Montclair; and as a student childcare assistant for both the Montclair and West Orange Pre-K’s. 

Upon graduating from high school, Zachary plans to attend college to study Aeronautical Engineering and then pursue a career in aviation.  He is the son of his proud parents, Jim and Heather Jones, and the brother of Jim, III.

“I think I’ve hit a home run… make that a grand slam… with my honoree, Zachary Jones”, said Freeholder Gerald Owens, who spoke of Zachary’s interest in flying and outstanding leadership qualities.  “I’m also so proud of all parents”, said Owens, “because Zachary, and all of today’s honorees, are outstanding young people, and you parents had an awful lot to do with that.”

Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold of Livingston presents the Board’s commendation to her honoree, Stefan Lenz of South Orange, a junior at The Craig School in Lincoln Park.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

STEFAN LENZ of South Orange is a 17-year old 11th grade student at The Craig School in Lincoln Park, as well as a talented and accomplished artist, and an avid outdoorsman who also enjoys computer coding and gaming.  He is also an officer in the National Art Honor Society and participates with his school’s Cross Country, Softball, Basketball and Billiards teams. 

Stefan became involved in Boy Scouting as a 5th grader, and through his involvement with Scouting he also developed his enthusiastic interest in helping others by volunteering with the First Aid Squad at his school, at local soup kitchens, and to help victims of Hurricane Sandy at the Shore through his church.  A member of Boy Scout Troop 5 in Maplewood, Stefan will be presented with the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor in Scouting, at an Eagle Court of Honor on June 1st.  Consistent with his nature, Stefan’s Eagle Scout Community Service Project was chosen specifically to help his community of South Orange.  The project included renovations to two town parks, including aesthetic and safety improvements to benefit the children and families of the area.  Stefan planned, organized, solicited donations for over $2,000 in materials, and recruited more than 30 volunteers who worked hundreds of hours over a 5-day period to repair fencing, walls and equipment, to weed and landscape, plant trees and shrubs, and lay down over 41 yards of mulch. 

Stefan is the son of his proud parents, Peter Lenz and Sarah Giese, and the brother of Christa.

“I would not miss this event for the world”, said Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold.  “I taught for 30 years at West Orange High School and I know, first-hand, how much students can accomplish, and I am delighted to recognize an outstanding and community-minded young man from South Orange, Stefan Lenz.”

Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley of Irvington presents the Board’s commendation to his honoree, Chelsie Riche, a senior at Irvington High School.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

CHELSIE RICHE of Irvington is a 17-year old senior at Irvington High School.  She was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she lived until the age of 10, when she immigrated with her family to the United States.  In high school, Chelsie is a scholar and student leader who is active in many activities.  She was President of her Class as a junior; currently serves as Vice President of both the Student Council and the school’s chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA); is Editor-in-Chief of CVA Communications Academy; is Class Reporter for the 2013 Class Committee; and is the Co-Captain of the Forensics/Debate Team.  Chelsie is also a member of the National Honor Society, a Student Ambassador with the Irvington Career Vision Ambassadors Programs, and a member of the high school Girls Tennis Team. 

Chelsie also organized and hosted a symposium for Irvington H. S. students entitled, “The Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit”, participates in blood drives through FBLA, and has volunteered at the Annual Irvington Unity Day.  She also worked as an intern at Seton Hall University analyzing scientific research under Project SEED, placed third at the Project SEED 26th Annual Poster Presentation, and her scientific research on Infrared Spectroscopy was also chosen for the Rutgers Annual Junior Science and Humanity Symposium. 

Chelsie will attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick in the fall where she plans to major in History and minor in Psychology, and aspires to later attend law school before eventually becoming the first African-American woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court.  She is the daughter of her proud father, Iliome C. Riche, and late mother, Ermite Dephonse, and is the sister of her brothers Herby, Gardimy and Angello Dephonse.

“I’m honored to participate in the honoring of outstanding youth in our county”, said Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley, who also serves as Irvington Council President, “and it is certainly a real privilege for me to recognize Chelsie Riche this evening, an outstanding young woman from the Township of Irvington.”  He also thanked Chelsie for representing Irvington High School students, as well as the Principal, Burnett Davis, III, and his staff at the high school for recommending her.”

Freeholder Rufus Johnson of Newark (left) presents the Board’s commendation to his honoree, Donald Rock, Jr., a senior at Belleville High School.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

DONALD ROCK, JR., of Belleville is a 17-year old senior at Belleville High School who has a G.P.A. of 109.76 on a 100-point scale, is ranked 3rd in his class of 375, and scored 2,060 Combined on the SAT.  He has been named to the Belleville H.S. High Honor Roll since 2009, is a Member of the National Honor Society, was named “Outstanding Participant” in the 2013 National Achievement Scholarship Program, and was named Belleville High School’s “Overall Student of the Month” in February 2012.  Donald served as his Class Vice President and as Class Treasurer for two terms, and is a member of the Peers Educating Peers Club. 

He is also active in his school’s music and theater programs, where he has been: Drum Major of the Marching Band since 2008; Student Director of “The Irresistibles” Acapella Ensemble since 2012; and the company Secretary, Student Choreographer, performer and Assistant Conductor for the Theater Arts program’s productions in 2010, 2011 and 2013.  He has also been very active in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) organization; he served as President of the Belleville H.S. chapter since 2010; as a member of the New Jersey FBLA Membership Committee since 2011; as State Membership Vice President since 2012; attended several FBLA leadership conferences at the regional, state and national levels; and has been the recipient of numerous regional and state-level awards in FBLA competitions.  Donald has also volunteered with the Human Needs Pantry of Montclair every summer since the age of 8, packing bags for struggling families and delivering food to those unable to leave their homes. 

Donald is the son of his proud parents, Rosa and Donald Rock, Sr., the younger brother of his sister, Crystal Cruz, and will attend Boston University in the fall.

“I am very proud to introduce my honoree, Donald Rock, Jr.”, said Freeholder Rufus Johnson, who also reminded everyone who’s attended parades in Belleville, that they know Donald as well, because he led all of those parades as the drum major.  “Donald, you are truly, truly an outstanding young man, and I am very proud to have watched you grow up for the last 10-12 years of your life,” said Johnson, who wished him all the success in the world and told him to “… never, ever let anyone deter you from your goals.”

Freeholder President Blonnie Watson of Newark presents the Board’s commendation to her honoree, Isaiah Thomas of Maplewood, a 9th grade student at Columbia High School.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

ISAIAH THOMAS of Maplewood is a 14-year old 9th grade student at Columbia High School.  He has been a musical prodigy since the age of 2, began performing publicly at the age of 4, has mastered the piano, the drums, the trumpet and the Hammond B-3 Organ, and plays guitar, harmonica and the recorder.  He also has legendary vocal talents. 

Isaiah was a member of the N. J. Regional Choir and has performed as a soloist and choir director with various vocal ensembles in church and in school.  He also performed for the Mayor and City Council of Clifton, and as an 8th grader performed to rave reviews as the lead in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Raincoat”.  Now in his first year at Columbia H. S., Isaiah plays trumpet in the school band, has already performed a featured singing and dancing role in its production of “Legally Blonde”, and also sings in 4 vocal ensembles.  He has also been a piano and vocal soloist for The Holy Spirit Association/Loving Life Ministries and is the accompanist for all 5 choirs at Welcome Baptist Church in Newark. 

Isaiah is currently in the recording studio with Crown Heights Affair and The Church of God and Saints of Christ Choir, and has written three songs that are scheduled to be included on Crown Heights Affair’s latest release.  Isaiah’s range of talent and musical interest includes jazz, classical, gospel, pop and modern R&B.  He is the son of his proud parents, Philip and Pamela.

“I am just delighted to recognize my honoree, the very talented Isaiah Thomas of Maplewood”, said Freeholder President Watson, who also recalled having known Isaiah’s mother, Pamela, when she was a young girl growing up in her High Park Gardens Cooperative community in Newark.   “Isaiah, I am so proud of you, wish you great success in school and in what I am sure will be fantastic musical career, and delighted to present you with this Commendation from the Board.  Congratulations!”

The freeholders and honorees gathered for a group photo at the conclusion of the program.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

The “Pledge of Allegiance” was led by honoree Donald Rock, Jr., and the program included vocal performances by another honoree, Isaiah Thomas, while the opening and closing prayers were offered by Calvin Pearson of the Clear View Baptist Church in Newark.  At the conclusion of the program, the honorees and their guests were invited to a reception catered by students enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at Newark Vocational High School.


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For Additional Information:
Gary Kroessig, Public Information
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders




Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695