(ANDOVER, Massachusetts)-Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura Ritzer have announced the 2016 recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, awarded to graduating high school seniors who will pursue education as a major in college and carry on Colleen’s legacy as a caring and compassionate teacher. This year, the family will award a total of $32,500 in scholarships, including $13,500 to first-year recipients and $19,000 to previous year’s recipients. Since 2014, $86,500 in college scholarships have been awarded to future teachers.
The 2016 scholarship recipients from Nashoba Regional High School includes Anna Fateiger, Erica Taft and Alicia Torres. Colleen taught at Hale Middle School in Stow after college; the students she taught at Stow are graduating from Nashoba Regional High School. Recipients from Andover include Rachel Drew and Maddy Reppucci. Scholarship recipients from Danvers include Lillie Hodgkins, Kristen McCarthy, Lindsay Richard and Eileen Vandewalle.
The scholarship fund is supported by individual donations made since the scholarship was established in October 2013 as well as the annual Step Up for Colleen 5K and other tribute events held to honor Colleen’s memory. The scholarship fund is a permanent tribute to Colleen and builds upon her legacy by helping future teachers obtain a college degree so that they, too, can share their passion for learning with future students.
“The recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Scholarship bear a significant responsibility to carry on Colleen’s legacy as caring and compassionate teachers who are committed to their students’ success, just like our daughter and sister Colleen,” said the Ritzer family. “We are grateful to the many individuals who continue to support the scholarship fund, including the thousands who participate in the annual Step Up for Colleen. Through these students, the scholarship recipients, Colleen will continue to inspire and empower teachers and their students to work tirelessly in pursuit of their dreams.”
Applicants were required to complete an application that requested information such as extra-curricular activities, awards and recognitions and plans for college. They were also asked to submit a 500-word essay describing why they plan to pursue a degree in education and what or who has inspired them. The last piece of the application encouraged applicants to reflect on words shared by Colleen in her college essay in which she wrote:
“Teachers have been an inspiration to me ever since I was just a young girl. Starting in pre-school, I knew I loved helping the teachers and would one day want to be just like them. My dream is to become a teacher, one who shapes the minds and lives of children. My goal has always been to become a teacher that will impact students’ lives.”
Eligible applicants must be Andover, Danvers or Nashoba Regional High School seniors who plan to pursue a degree in the field of education at an accredited four-year college or university. Guidance counselors encouraged well-rounded students who plan to major in education or a specific subject (i.e. math, science, etc.) with a concentration in education to apply for a competitive scholarship.
Applications that met eligibility requirements were reviewed by a selection committee comprised of family members and educators including: Tom Ritzer, Colleen’s Dad; Peggie Ritzer, Colleen’s Mom; Susan Craig, Colleen’s Aunt; Todd Butterworth and Sarah Giaquinta, Danvers High School Math Teachers; Kimberly Bergey, Andover High School Guidance Counselor; and Kimberly Rocha, Nashoba Regional High School English Teacher.
NASHOBA REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
Nashoba Regional High School graduate Anna R. Fateiger will attend Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts this fall where she will major in mathematics with a minor in secondary education and statistics. Fateiger participated in a number of extra-curricular activities during high school including: religious education teacher; Drama Club; National Honor Society; Dance Team; Club for a Cause where she raised money for malaria nets in impoverished countries; and volunteered as a counselor in training at a summer camp.
“Whenever I say I am planning on majoring in education, most people’s follow-up question is ‘to teach what?’ and the look on people’s faces when I say that I want to teach high school math is what can only be described as looks of horror mixed with impress,” wrote Fateiger in her essay. “I want to help children and teenagers gain a love for learning and I want to encourage them to dream big and to not hold back. I strive to become a teacher that makes kids want to learn and see their true potential.”
Fateiger was recognized with a number of awards from the dance team and as a recipient of the John & Abigail Adams Scholarship.
Erica Taft will attend Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she will “delve into discovering my passions through means of policy, leadership, education or some combination of the three.”
Taft led a very busy schedule outside of high school. She was a member and President of the National Honors Society; played on the field hockey and lacrosse teams; worked at Kids-A-Lot Daycare; and hiked the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont. She also served as a Celiac Support Group Board Member at Boston Children’s Hospital and led her youth group at her church.
“Ms. Ritzer was one of the best teachers I had ever had,” said Taft in her scholarship essay. “I think of how her smile never faltered, because she was doing what she loved, and I want to find my passion like she did. I like to think that I am carrying on the caring nature Ms. Ritzer instilled in me.”
Taft has received a number of awards including one for Academic Achievement with a Social Conscience, Outstanding Contributor towards Sportsmanship, Leadership & Athletic Achievement and an award from the Collings Foundation for demonstrated leadership.
Alica V. Torres will attend Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts where she will major in special education. Throughout high school, Torres engaged in a number of different activities such as caring for a cancer survivor; daycare volunteer; caring for a special needs individual; editor of the student newspaper; member of Best Buddies where she worked with disabled students in her school; and also plays the guitar.
“As someone who wants a similar career, Ms. Ritzer not only served as a teacher and a friend to me but also acted as a role model,” said Torres. “I looked up to her with great admiration, seeing how much she loved her job and the friendships she made with her students. She always had a smile when I walked into her classroom and created an environment that was fun and enjoyable for all of us. To this day, I am so incredibly thankful to have had a teacher, a friend, and an inspiration like Ms. Ritzer. She has not only encouraged me to pursue an educational career, but she continues to remind me to be a good person. Her legacy will stay with me as I start this new chapter in my life and I hope to be making the same impact on my students as she did for me.”
Torres earned Honors her freshman year and High Honors for her remaining years at Nashoba Regional High School.
The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund is held at the Essex County Community Foundation.