(ANDOVER, Massachusetts)- The parents and siblings of Colleen E. Ritzer, Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura, announced the 2017 recipients of a scholarship in Colleen’s name, which are 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 $53,000 in Colleen. E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarships, including $18,000 to 2017 graduating seniors and $35,000 to previous years’ recipients. Since 2014, $138,000 in college scholarships have been awarded to future teachers.
The 2017 scholarship recipients from Andover include Grayson Beherrell, Caileigh Reming, Samantha Shea and Michaela Verrette. Scholarship recipients from Danvers include Kylie McDonough, Kristin McNichol, Megan O’Leary, Stephany Pallazolla and Kaitlyn Sullivan.
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 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.
“The recipients of Colleen’s scholarship continue to amaze us with their passion for teaching and who seek to make a difference in the lives of their future students,” said the Ritzer Family. “Through the scholarship fund, we are able to ensure that the light of Colleen’s legacy will never be extinguished. We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations who continue to support the fund, as they will always play a significant role in allowing the scholarship recipients to pursue their goals to become caring and compassionate teachers.”
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, inspired them to do so. 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 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.
Andover High School Colleen Ritzer Scholarship Recipients
Grayson Beherrell will attend Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts this fall where she plans to pursue a degree in elementary education and special education. During her four years at Andover High School, Beherrell was a member of the Red Cross Club and Sophomore Board; volunteered at Lazarus House; danced at the North Reading School of Ballet; worked at the YMCA Camp of Maine as a leader in training and program assistant; and dedicated time each week to care for a special needs child.
“Simply put, the world needs more Grayson Beherrell’s. She exudes kindness and cares deeply about others,” stated her guidance counselor. “Grayson is as selfless as they come. Andover High School is often a ‘pressure cooker’ type of environment and Grayson’s calming presence puts people at ease. She will undoubtedly spread compassion and acceptance.” Beherrell worked with adaptive students in the physical education setting, inspiring her to pursue a career in education.
“During that semester, I learned the little important things about each of the students and created a relationship with them that I treasured,” wrote Beherrell in her essay. “A few months into the semester and I can see how far they have come in such a short time. It gives me a sense of success that I was able to be part of that progress! In my career, whether in a classroom with elementary students or adaptive students, I will be able to help them all learn, grow and become kind, independent individuals.”
Attending the University of New Hampshire this fall, Caileigh Reming plans to pursue a degree in human development and family studies with aspirations to become a special education teacher at the elementary school level. In high school, Reming demonstrated many leadership roles including: assisting children at Frost Elementary School in Lawrence; participating as a student-athlete representative in Warrior Way; field hockey and lacrosse captain; coach and counselor at Hooptown; serving as an assistant helper at Oliver Partnership School; and as an Andover Youth Services youth lacrosse coach.
From a young age Caleigh wanted to be a teacher. “I had a teaching room set up in my play room and would have a white board and work sheets that I would hand out to my imaginary kids,” she wrote in her application essay.
“What inspired me to be interested in teaching, specifically special education, is as a kid I was placed on an IEP with a communication disorder and needing improvement in reading comprehension. When I was younger and going to separate rooms for extra help, I was always embarrassed and would be asked by other kids why I was going to another room,” Reming added. “As much as I hated going into a separate room and getting extra help, I simply would not be the person I am today. All the teachers who helped me have inspired me to become what they are,” she continued.
Samantha Shea will attend Assumption College, where she hopes to pursue a career in elementary education or special education. While at Andover High School, Shea took part in many extracurricular activities including: Andover Middle School Track assistant coach; student-athlete representative of the Warrior Way Program; Vacation Bible School counselor; Indoor and Fall Field Hockey Youth assistant coach; and a field hockey and track team member.
Shea’s guidance counselor spoke highly of her sharing, “Her energy and spirit and intelligence have made her a great coach and will make her a great educator in the future. Sammy is comfortable in her own skin and possesses an optimal blend of confidence and humility.”
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, mostly because I love children,” wrote Shea. “As an elementary school teacher, I want to be able to help students identify and accept their learning styles early to help them avoid self-doubt and learn to advocate for themselves,” Shea explained in her scholarship essay. “I want them to understand that everyone learns differently, and that there isn’t one right way.”
At Plymouth State University, Micheala Verrette will major in elementary education with the hope of developing key tools for connecting with students and gaining their trust. Verrette had a number of responsibilities during her four years at Andover High School through caring for her mother who was seriously ill; performing in the Show Choir, as vice president for two years; waitressing; serving as a substitute teacher at Bright Horizons; and as a peer mentor who assisted with intellectually challenged children.
Verrette is described as “self-driven, highly motivated, compassionate, musical and simply one of the nicest students I know” by her guidance counselor.
“Mrs. Stone was my second-grade teacher and I aspire to be her. Every single day of second grade began with smiles and laughter,” explained Verrette. “My students will know that their teacher cares about them. I will teach them the academics but I will teach them life lessons as well. My students will know that there is someone who will always be there for them and care for them. Being an elementary educator will allow me to begin to shape the lives of our future generations.”
Danvers High School Colleen Ritzer Scholarship Recipients
Kylie McDonough will attend Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts in the fall to pursue a career in elementary education and special education. McDonough has obtained immense leadership experience including: secretary of Best Buddies; co-founder of Women of the World Club and broadcast station “Falcons Nest for News”; writer for the school newspaper; and more. She received academic honors each year and also volunteered for various organizations.
“My traits of being known as a positive, friendly, caring person, passionate about Best Buddies and being inclusive to people with disabilities assures that I have the mindset of a teacher. As a future elementary school teacher my dream is to spread happiness to students as I teach a new generation the importance of kindness,” explained McDonough in her essay. “In my professional career I hope to become a role model and emulate the characteristics of my most beloved teachers who demonstrated unconditional compassion.”
Kristin McNichol will attend Salem State University hoping to major in elementary education. Her extra-curricular activities include: waitressing at Brooksby Village; gymnastics team manager; member of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club; and member of the World Language National Honor Society (WLNHS).
McNichol’s guidance counselor describes her as an individual who has “dedicated herself to academics, athletics, work, and volunteering,” and also shared “I am confident she will become a highly skilled and impactful teacher.”
“Since my adolescence, I have never thought twice about wanting to become a teacher. Pursuing a career in education means I would be able to instill a love for learning for the next generation of children,” wrote McNichol in her essay. “Ms. Ritzer allowed her students to experience an environment that encouraged them to grow and be better each and every day. Her passion was heartfelt and I hope that I can be as influential to my students as she was to me. I want to continue Ms. Ritzer’s legacy by sharing my love for learning to my future students just like she did.”
Attending Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, this fall, Megan O’Leary plans to work toward a degree in education. She hopes to gain experience in the classroom, discover new passions and develop new skills. During her time at Danvers High School, she participated in various activities including: Ingrid Sound: A Cappella as a bass singer; Mixed Chorus as an alto singer; Academy Theatre as an actress and student director; Tomorrow’s Teachers and Danvers Cares Youth Leadership as a member; and Stiles Pond Day Camp as a Junior Camp Counselor.
“Colleen Ritzer was a teacher that I will always model myself after. She had a relatable and gentle way about her. One of the most inspiring things about Ms. Ritzer was her determination to teach every child; she had the mindset that every child has the ability to learn,” mentioned O’Leary in her essay. “I respect and admire this philosophy greatly because I myself believe with different approaches and tools, every single child is able to learn and grow. It is teachers such as Colleen Ritzer who have inspired me to become the great educator that she proved exists.”
Stephany Pallazolla plans to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst to major in elementary education with the hope of working towards her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. She believes educating others is her calling, and will do everything she needs to become the teacher she can for her students. Pallazolla’s extra-curricular involvement includes: DHS Academy Theater as a member of the student board; Tomorrow’s Teacher Club; working as a cashier and in customer service; National English Honor Society; World Language National Honor Society; and Danvers Performing Arts Project Volunteer.
“Stephany has found great meaning within DHS Tomorrow’s Teachers program. This ‘work’ has become her passion, and Stephany has found her true calling in life. She is able to connect with the students through activities and games, and finds great meaning by creating happiness for others,” wrote Pallazolla’s guidance counselor in a recommendation letter.
“Pursuing a career in education would mean that I get to fulfill my dreams and do what I love most: teaching children and exciting them about learning new things,” explained Pallazolla in her essay. “Much like Ms. Ritzer, being a teacher is my dream, and I believe that my passionate and caring attitude will allow me to become a teacher who will make an impact. By being a teacher, I know I will make my mark on this Earth and make a difference to others. Ms. Ritzer inspires me to leave behind a legacy, and being an inspirational and dedicated elementary school teacher is the legacy I will leave behind.”
Kaitlyn Sullivan will attend Endicott College to pursue a degree in education, which she would like to follow with a Master’s Degree in teaching. She hopes through the various internships required at the College she will gain the exposure and experience that will allow her to have her own classroom teaching first grade within a year or two following her college graduation. Sullivan has gained responsibility and leadership through various activities including: working as a sales associate at a clothing store; Tomorrow’s Teachers; Yearbook Club; Book Club; Art National Honor Society; World Language National Honor Society; playing tennis and more.
Sullivan’s high school guidance counselor described her as “a self-motivated, intuitive student who has continually excelled in every area of the curriculum…Kaitlyn is devoted to all that she commits to, and gives 110 percent. Empathetic and always cheerful, she believes that what you reflect will be embraced by those around you,” continued her guidance counselor.
As a result of a teaching class Kaitlyn took as a senior, she stated: “I think the thing that I loved most about teaching is seeing the student’s excitement when they would raise their hand and confidently answer the question.” She continued in her essay, “I want to pursue a field in education because I think that it is so rewarding to see kids learn, and to see them grow. I love knowing that I will have shaped them into the person that they are. I honestly couldn’t think of anything more rewarding than being with children and watching them grow as individuals.”
The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund is held at the Essex County Community Foundation.