Untitled Document

May 3, 2012


(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held its 9th Annual “Essex County Celebrates Youth” program on Wednesday, May 2, 2012, at the Hall of Records.  This happy and heartwarming annual 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: Melvin Covin, an 8th Grade student at East Orange’s Saint Joseph School; Christian Dowdell, an 8th Grade student at the Belleville Middle School; Precious Osiage-Erese, a senior at East Orange Campus High School; Prince Polley, a senior at Irvington High School; and Dana Nichelle Williams, a senior at East Orange Campus High School.

Pictured above are Melvin Covin of Newark (front, center) and, in the 2nd row (left to right), Dana Nichelle Williams of East Orange, Christian Dowdell of Belleville, Prince Polley of Irvington and Precious Osiage-Erese of East Orange.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON


Melvin Covin of Newark (right), an 8th Grade student at Saint Joseph School in East Orange receives his commendation from Freeholder Donald M. Payne, Jr., also of Newark.   PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

MELVIN COVIN of Newark is a 13-year old 8th Grader at Saint Joseph School in East Orange where he is a student-athlete and has learned to juggle the demands of both disciplines.  He is a talented basketball player as well as a very good running back on the Pop Warner East Orange Rams football team, which he helped to reach the National Finals in Washington, D.C., in November of 2011.

In addition to his academic and athletic accomplishments, Melvin became even more appreciated by everyone at Saint Joseph School, and even recognized as a hero by many, as a result of his quick thinking one day in December of 2011, when he sprang into action to assist his history teacher, Yvonne Rowley, who was choking on a piece of pear.  Melvin recognized that his teacher was in distress, gasping for air, when he helped lower her to the floor, and then patted her on the back to help her catch her breath, before running to get help that would ultimately save her life.  He then stayed with Ms. Rowley, holding her hand and getting her water, and repeatedly checked back on her throughout the rest of the day, and for succeeding days, to be sure she was OK, concern that earned Ms. Rowley’s gratitude and her recognition of him as her “Guardian Angel”.

Melvin is the son of Felicia Farmer and Melvin Covin, and the brother of NyGee Brown.

Christian Dowdell of Belleville (left), an 8th Grade student at Belleville Middle School, receives his commendation from Freeholder President Blonnie R. Watson of Newark.   PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

CHRISTIAN DOWDELL is a 14-year old 8th Grader at the Belleville Middle School.  He began to demonstrate his creative mind at the early age of 3 when, before going to bed each night, he would make up stories of fantasies and fairytales, a practice he continued until age 8, and he has hopes of some day developing those stories into a series of books for other children to enjoy.

Inspired by the candidacy of then-Senator Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States in 2008, Christian developed a burning desire to participate actively in the election process at the age of 11.  Determined to do more than just follow the campaign online and on television, he became a volunteer who campaigned door-to-door with his father in Montclair on behalf of Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates on the ballot for other offices.  He documented his experiences on the campaign trail by writing a 44-page book, The Kid That Helped Elect Barack Obama President, which was published when he was 13 years old.  Through the recounting of his efforts in Montclair, he shares the excitement and satisfaction of actively participating in the democratic electoral process with other young people, and hopefully encourages them to become involved themselves, especially in support of President Obama’s re-election campaign this year.

Christian has also written several other manuscripts and hopes to release his next short story, “Lost at The Beach”, in the near future.  He is involved in other activities as well, including baseball, Boy Scouts (where he earned the “Arrow Of Light”) and singing in his school’s choir.  He is the son of Lord Dowdell and Renita Ragan.


Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson of Newark (left) presents the Freeholder Board’s commendation to his honoree, Precious Osiage-Erese, a senior at East Orange Campus High School.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

PRECIOUS OSIAGE-ERESE of East Orange is a 17-year old senior at East Orange Campus High School where she is ranked #10 in a class of 470 students and maintains a 3.9 G.P.A.  She was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 1999 when her mother won the lottery.  Precious first attended Gordon Parks Academy where she was on the Honor Roll and was an anchor and news reporter for the Kid Witness News, which won a national/international contest for producing school news.  She then attended John L. Costley Middle School where she was class Vice President, a member of the Junior National Honor Society and maintained all A’s Honor Roll.  She was also a member of the East Orange Travel Basketball Team from Grade 5 through Grade 8, including the Varsity Team (7th and 8th graders) that won two Garden State League championships.

Precious has taken at least one Advanced Placement class every year as a student at East Orange Campus High School, including her senior year in which all but one class is AP.  She is Student Council President, a member of the National Honor Society, second-in-command serving as Vice Wing Commander in the AFJROTC and captain of the Girls Varsity Basketball Team.

She won the Localtalknews High School Public Speaking Contest in both 2010 and 2011 from among high school students across Essex County.  She also served as Mistress of Ceremonies for several City of East Orange-sponsored events, including: the Memorial Day Parade, the Black History Month and Women’s History Month programs, and the Veterans Day Ceremony.  She was also honored for her student/athlete leadership by the City of East Orange during its 2010 Women’s History Month celebration.  Precious has also worked as a camp counselor with youth
ages 7-15 at the East Orange Co-Ed Basketball Camp, and as a film crew member filming and interviewing East Orange summer campers and other City-sponsored summer activities.  She has also volunteered her time with her church, school and the City of East Orange.

Precious will attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the fall where she plans to major in Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communications with the hope of becoming a news analyst or anchor for news outlets.  She is the daughter of Alex and Agatha Osiage-Erese, and the sister of Angel, Marvelous and Prince.

Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley of Irvington (right) presents the Board’s commendation to his honoree, Prince Polley, a senior at Irvington High School. PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

PRINCE POLLEY is an 18-year old senior at Irvington High School where he is ranked #6 in his class and has a G.P.A. of 3.79.  He was born in Prestea, Ghana, and immigrated to the United States on April 20, 2006, at the age of 11, when his family settled in Irvington where he first attended University Six School and where he excelled academically, a trend that he continued when he attended Union Avenue Middle School, where he achieved either Honor Roll or Super Honor Roll every marking period.

As a student at Irvington High School, Prince has achieved either Honor Roll or Super Honor Roll during his entire tenure.  As a junior, he was recognized for being a “Top 20” student, and this year, as a senior, he was named “Student of the Month” for November.  He has been a member of the Honor Society for two years, a member of the Robotics Club for three years, and has played on the Varsity Baseball Team for four years.  Prince has also participated in the highly selective Career Vision Ambassadors: Irvington Diplomats program, which is committed to redefining and shaping adolescent career strategies through consistent training programs, peer-structured mentoring and collaborative partnerships.

Prince hopes to attend Penn State University following his graduation from high school, where he intends to major in Architectural Engineering and eventually become an architect.  He selflessly attributes his successes to the dedication and support of his teachers, guidance counselors and, of course, his parents, who have helped him to become a mature, intelligent individual.  He is the son of Bismark Polley, Sr., and Abena Djan, and the brother of Bismark, Jr., and Hilda.

Freeholder Carol Y. Clark of East Orange (right) presents the Board’s commendation to her honoree, Dana Nichelle Williams, a senior at East Orange Campus High School. PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

DANA NICHELLE WILLIAMS is an 18-year old senior at East Orange Campus High School where she is ranked #1 in a class of 470 students, and has managed, except for one marking period, to maintain straight A’s since the fourth grade.

Dana is Vice President of the National Honor Society, a member of the Environmental Club, the F.U.T.U.R.E. Mentoring Club, the Campus Choir, the Volleyball Team, and also manages the Boy’s Varsity Basketball Team.  She has also been named the recipient of numerous and varied awards.  She was the 2009-2010 recipient of the “Paul Roberson Award” for volleyball, was named a “New Jersey Rising Scholar” by the New Jersey Department of Education in collaboration with the New Jersey Amistad Commission, received the Bennett College Book Scholarship, was presented with a “Hometown Hero Award – Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things” by the New Jersey Nets, and with an “Essex County Academic Award” by the Office of the Executive County Superintendent for Essex County.

Dana was also a 2011 participant in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Internship Program and a member of the 88th graduating class of the New Jersey State Trooper Youth Program.  She has also volunteered her time for various causes, including: the Breast Cancer Walk, the Immunization Walk, and A Day of Service honoring the memory of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  She also serves as a mentor and to help resolve conflicts at one of the local middle schools, and is a devoted member of Bethel Presbyterian Church in East Orange where she serves as the coordinator of the Praise Dance Ministry and helps to organize the Thanksgiving Day Outreach Project.

Dana will attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the fall where she plans to major in Biology to help her prepare for a career as a medical examiner.  She is the daughter of her proud parents, Chrystel and Jimmy Williams, and the sister of Danielle and Daphne.

Assemblywoman Sheila Y. Oliver, Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly and Deputy Essex County Administrator, offered congratulatory words to the honorees on behalf of County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo.  State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz also offered her congratulations and encouragement to the honorees, as well as proclamations from the New Jersey State Senate.  The “Pledge of Allegiance” was led by 8-year old James Dombrowski of North Arlington, the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by Natasha Robbins, a senior at the West Caldwell Tech Campus of the Essex County Vocational-Technical Schools, and the opening and closing prayers were offered by Minister-in-Training Zainis Mason, a senior at East Orange Campus High School.  Entertainment was provided by a dance troupe known as “Certified Divas”, which is comprised of girls age 9-11 who attend Newark’s Avon Avenue School and Early College High School.  The reception that followed the program was 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