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Ritzer Family Announces 2015 Danvers Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Recipients

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Scholarship Recipients Have Declared Education as their College Major

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Last Year’s Recipients to Receive Second-Year Awards

(ANDOVER, Massachusetts)-Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura Ritzer announced last evening the 2015 Danvers recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, awarded to graduating high school seniors who will pursue education as a major in college to carry on Colleen’s legacy as a caring and compassionate teacher. This year, the family will award a total of $30,000 in scholarships, including $12,000, second-year scholarships to last year’s recipients, the first to receive a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship.

The 2015 scholarship recipients from Danvers include: William Carleton Jr., Rebecca Hardenstine, Haley O’Shea and Jenna Romano. On Monday of this week, the family awarded a scholarship to graduating Nashoba Regional High School senior, Clara Greszczuk. The scholarship was awarded in memory of Michelle Farnsworth, a Nashoba High student who lost her battle with cancer in 2015. Colleen taught at Hale Middle School in Stow after college; the students she taught there are now in the high school.  Andover recipients will be announced next week.

The scholarship fund is supported by individual donations that were made in the wake of Colleen’s passing in October 2013 as well as the Step Up for Colleen Ritzer 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 teaching with future students.

“Our family continues to be touched and strengthened by the many stories friends and strangers have shared about the difference Colleen made in their lives, and the lives of her students,” said the Ritzer Family. “This scholarship fund enables Colleen’s spirit to continue to make a difference as a new generation of teachers is provided financial assistance so that they, too, can pursue their passion for teaching. We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations who continue to support the scholarship fund as they provide critical resources to help form a new generation of caring and compassionate teachers who will be dedicated to their students’ personal and academic success.”

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.” 

William Carleton Jr. will attend the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. this fall where he will major in music with career aspirations to teach that subject. Carleton participated in a number of extra-curricular activities during his high school years including: cast and crew member for school musicals; Boy Scout troop guide; music director for the school’s A Capella group; and was a member of the football, swim, golf and math teams. He also served as a bass singer in the MMEA Northeast Senior District Choir.

“Math may not be everyone’s favorite subject, but I found it as an entertaining puzzle,” Carleton wrote in his essay. “When I had Ms. Ritzer, she would always find a theme for every chapter’s title slide. For example, chapter one would be puppies and chapter two could be autumn trees. It was something that made the classroom relaxing, and easier to concentrate in.”

Carleton has earned a number of impressive recognitions, some of which include: All-State Choir Recommendations; Eagle Scout, Honors Student; Up and Coming for Choir Award and the Swimming Determination Award.

“…I met up with her (Ms. Ritzer) and told her that I was looking to pursue a teaching career in music,” Carleton added. “Impressed and excited, she offered me the chance to come by during one of her freshmen classes and teach simple algebraic equations, such as the Distributive Property or the Pythagorean Theorem.  She was truly a teacher dedicated to every student’s success; she is a teacher I want to be like.”

Rebecca Hardenstine will attend Providence College in Providence, R.I. where she will pursue a dual elementary/ special education degree to prepare herself to “help all of my students to the best of my ability.” Hardenstine’s lengthy list of community engagement includes CCD teacher; Danvers Library page; Girl Scout; Homework Club volunteer; Global Activism vice-president; and Tomorrow’s Teachers volunteer. She is a member of the Danvers Marching Band and held leadership positions in the National English Honor Society, National Honor Society and World Language Honor Society. She also leads Bible Study for Courage.

            “I do not believe I can become the best teacher I can be by just reading books and being in classrooms,” Hardenstine shared in her application essay. “In order for me to be the dynamic teacher I want to become, it is important for me to have a meaningful life. And having a meaningful life means growing spiritually, making a difference in my community, and having a career that I love.”

Her volunteer and academic accomplishments have been recognized with the College Board AP Scholar Award; Danvers High School Outstanding Student Award; Dartmouth College Book Award; Girls Scouts’ Gold Award; and was recognized with a Certificate of Academic Excellence by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. Hardenstine was also a member of the President’s Education Award Program.

In preparation for her future classroom, Hardenstine has already begun to gather a “collection of supplies, posters and books…given to me by retiring teachers who wanted to pass on the legacy.”

Haley O’Shea will enroll at Boston College as a member of the class of 2019 where she will study to become a high school English teacher. O’Shea’s high school involvement includes National Honor Society; National English Honor Society; school committee; school council; Senior Center Volunteer; Student Bible Study; Tomorrow’s Teacher’s, World Language Honor Society; Yearbook; and member of the softball team.

“At an early age, my love for learning and my desire to help others caused me to decide that someday I would want to help children discover who they want to be, just as my teachers have helped me,” O’Shea wrote in her application essay. “Ms. Ritzer has taught me that ‘being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind’ and has reminded me to be kind to all whom I meet. My teachers have shaped me into the person I am today – a kind, courageous individual. They are the reason that I, too, wish to become a teacher someday. I want to be a teacher to inspire others to stand up for what they believe in.”

O’Shea was awarded the Danvers Girls’ Softball Sportsmanship Award; Danvers High School AP European History and Biology Award; the Book Award from Smith College; and named an AP Scholar Award by the College Board.

Jenna Romano will attend Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. this fall where she will major in elementary education. Romano’s impressive community service engagement includes: organizer for the Alzheimer’s Association; coach, Danvers Youth Cheerleaders; member of S.A.D.D.; Freshman Mentor; member, Student Council; and volunteer for Tomorrow’s Teachers. She was a varsity Hockey Cheerleader and balanced a part-time job.

“Becoming a teacher has always been a lifetime goal of mine,” explained Romano in her essay. “Ms. Ritzer left a wonderful legacy behind which was ‘be good to people’ and that will forever live on. I will always remember the things she stood for. I hope that one day when I am a teacher, I will be able to touch the lives of my students and inspire them to be the best that they can be just like my teachers did for me.”

Romano’s academic recognitions include member of the National English and World Language Honor Societies.

Eligible applicants must be Andover or Danvers 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.

The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund is held at the Essex County Community Foundation.