Youth Recognized At 20th Anniversary Achievers Gala

September 26, 2018

The YMCA’s 20th Anniversary Achievers Gala was held on Friday June 15, 2018 at the Grand Ballroom Embassy Suites in Berkeley Heights, NJ.

This year’s gala celebrated the program being facilitated at the Westfield YMCA for 20 years as well as the 20th year the Connell Company and their family have sponsored the Scholarship Fund. The program has worked in collaboration with the Plainfield YMCA for the past three years and the Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA for the past two years.

The Achievers program provides college readiness, career development, leadership, life skills and mentoring for minority students ranging from 6-12th grades. The gala honored their “most dedicated mentors” and celebrated their achievements. It also recognized 31 high school graduates and this year’s scholarship recipients. Students of the Achievers program and 12 students from the Kean University Upward Bound program were also honored.

A list of distinguished speakers spoke to the 235 guests who attended the formal banquet: Among the speakers were: Tia Norfleet, (First African-American NASCAR and ARCA Licensed female driver); Stephen Powell, Chief Program Officer of National CARES Mentoring Movement (founded by Susan Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine); and Luke Wright, Veteran Marine Leadership Motivational Speaker.

Assemblywoman Linda Carter from the Freeholder's Office and a State Representative presented the speakers, mentors and students with resolutions and certificates. The following mentors were honored: Zayna Allen (Alumni); Carlton Blake (Connell Company); Pamela Brooks (SJM, Scotch Plains Librarian); Delacy Davis (FSO); Adrian Hawkins (Novartis); Jennifer Lane (Lord & Taylor); Leland McGee (SJM); Jeff O'Hearn (Connell Company); Jessica Taub (Private Prep); and Tarajee Wertz (Westfield YMCA). 

Also, individuals from the following organizations were present: Novartis Multicultural Mentoring Program, Social Justice Matters, Kean University Upward Bound, EF Education, FinAid and NJ Orators, etc. 

Next year’s Achievers Gala will be held on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at The Westwood in Garwood, NJ.