The Brookdale Community College distinguish is given to professionals, community leaders, volunteers and activists for their often selfless and unheralded work.
Named in honor of the late Wilbur Ray [at right], former Brookdale police sergeant and an active volunteer in the Long Branch community, the annual event is held in support of scholarships for students of color.
“To the honorees, and to everyone who has come out to give their support, my family and I thank you,” said Ray’s daughter Catherine Hamlin, who helped kick off the event.
Among this year’s nine honorees were Asbury Park community notables Diteko Hammary, founder of Sportz Farm; Mychal Mills, founder of Konscious Youth Development Service [KYDS]; and Asbury Park School Superintendent Lamont Repollet.
The evening was filled with moving tales of struggle, adversity, triumph and impact, of local residents who have dedicated their lives to betterment of their communities, college spokesman Keith Heumiller said in a written statement.
Hammary, a long-time supporter of youth enrichment programs, spoke of his own experience as a young Asbury Park student and 2005 Brookdale graduate. Introduced by former Brookdale mentor Lisa Savage, Hammary addressed the power of education and thanked fellow honorees for helping local students ‘bridge the gap.’
“I’m not talking about a generation gap or a racial gap or anything like that,” he said. “I’m speaking about a gap that exists between today and tomorrow. It’s a real life struggle and you are helping to make that transition. You aren’t doing it for the awards; you’re doing it for the passion.”
The power of education and the comprehensive support for city students was further highlighted when Repollet accepted his award. He was honored for spearheading a host of new district initiatives, including two new partnerships with Brookdale Community College that will result in an an Associate’s Degree at the time of high school graduation for qualifying students.
Joined on stage by a group of school district representatives – known affectionately as the ‘hard hat nation,’ Repollet also thanked his fellow honorees for carrying on the legacy of the evening’s namesake.
“I am proud to be sharing the stage with community members and organizational leaders who have exemplified the high ideals and principals set for by the late Wilbur Ray,” he said. “As Nelson Mandela said, education is the most powerful weapon, which we can use to change the world. A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination, but when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
“As Nelson Mandela said, education is the most powerful weapon, which we can use to change the world. A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination, but when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
This year’s honorees also included Wanda Brauner of Howell, Ronald Dukes of Red Bank, Gerald Eugene Glisson of Paterson, Jordan and Joelle Hernandez of Hazlet, and Yesenia Madas of Brick. To view Wilbur Ray Award winner’s full bios, click here.
Hosted by Mary Scott, chair of the Wilbur Ray Scholarship Dinner Committee, the night featured addresses by Brookdale President Maureen Murphy, Monmouth County Freeholder John Curley and Assistant Professor Fidel Wilson, a co-host of the annual Minority Male Initiative conference at Brookdale, held in partnership with the Monmouth/Ocean County Pan Hellenic Council. The conference was designed to increase support for male students of color at Brookdale.
In his scholarship acceptance speech, nursing student Salvador Valdez of Red Bank said, “Financially, it was a big help for me and for my family. But it was more than that. People at the college saw something in me. The scholarship showed me that my work meant something, that people believe in me, and it has inspired me to work even harder.”
The Wilbur Ray Scholarship Dinner committee members are Louis Rodriguez, Phil Smith, Bessie Wade, Nancy Washington, JayShaun Nicholson-Scott, Michelle Stathum, Avis McMillon, Lisa Savage, Ernestine Austin, Peggy Austin, Fidel Wilson, and Timothy Zeiss.
The Dinner provides up to $2,500 in annual Brookdale scholarships to local high school graduates and current students. To learn more or to apply, visit the Brookdale Foundation webpage.
[Photos courtesy of Brookdale Community College]
The Asbury Park Sun is affiliated with the triCityNews newspaper.