It takes a village to help a student earn a college degree, and on May 29 the Monmouth County “village” came together at the Eagle Oaks Golf and Country in Farmingdale to raise thousands of dollars in support of that mission.
Hundreds of community members, elected officials and Brookdale employees broke out their suits, cocktail dresses and checkbooks for the 2015 Scholarship Ball, hosted by the Brookdale Foundation.
The event featured live music, dinner, dancing, live and silent auctions and other offerings, raising $92,000 for the Foundation’s “Building Minds, Building Futures” Scholarship Fund. The fund, which benefits students and working families who don’t qualify for financial aid, awarded nearly $400,000 to more than 500 students this past school year.
Foundation and Alumni Affairs Executive Director Timothy Zeiss joined Brookdale President Dr. Maureen Murphy in thanking the attendees for their support, explaining how even a $500 or $1,000 scholarship can mean the difference between continuing on to a degree or dropping out.
“Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, a student came to Tim [Zeiss] and asked for $87 to help pay her tuition,” Murphy said. “He said he would give her $100, but she said, ‘No, I just need $87.’
“Sometimes, it’s that small of an amount that keeps people in school,” Murphy continued. “What we do transforms the lives of many. Our students have so many opportunities to grow and learn because of our Foundation. And they are able to do that because of your gifts to us and your presence here tonight. I thank you very, very much.”
The Ball also served as an opportunity to recognize two Monmouth County advocates for their work on behalf of their communities.
Scholarship Ball Committee co-chairs Candy Langan-Sattenspiel, Karen Escobedo and Carol Stillwell gave warm introductions for honorees Valerie Montecalvo and David Portman, describing how each has worked tirelessly to make a difference in others’ lives.
Monmouth County Freeholders Serena DiMaso and Lillian Burry also presented the honorees with official certificates of recognition, declaring May 29, 2015 “Valerie Montecalvo Day” and “David Portman Day” in Monmouth County.
Montecalvo, owner of Bayshore Recycling Corp, is an avid environmentalist who supports several environmental groups including the Nature Conservancy, Clean Ocean Action and Edison Wetlands.
Portman, president of Triad Property Management and Developmental Corporation, sits on the board for the Jewish Foundation in the Heart of New Jersey and serves as chair of the New Jersey Jewish Home for Rehabilitation and Nursing.
Both honorees gave impassioned speeches about the benefits of a community college education, and called on the attendees to become advocates for the “jewel of Monmouth County.”
“We all know that the cost of higher education is so expensive that only a fraction of our students have the wherewithal to pay for a four-year education,” said Portman, whose late wife Sharon served on the Foundation board from 1984 to 1994.
“The cost of a Brookdale education is only a fraction of that, and it allows students to juggle full- and part-time jobs, family responsibilities and coursework simultaneously … Today, because of that, more than 40,000 alumni can look back and say I got my start at Brookdale.”
One of those alumni, 2012 nursing graduate Avery Gardner, explained how a Foundation scholarship enabled her to pursue her dream of becoming a medical doctor. Gardner, who was born three months premature and spent months in neo-natal intensive care, explained how she originally pursued her dream at a four-year university.
In the wake of the recession, however, financial complications forced her to transfer to Brookdale. Here she was awarded the Ava Pellicone Memorial Nursing Scholarship, established in honor of a girl born premature and who similarly spent months in intensive care.
Today, Gardner works as a nurse and Clinical Nurse Leader at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, the same hospital that saved her life 26 years ago. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in nursing from Rutgers University, and expects to graduate in 2017.
“I look back to my first day at Brookdale in 2008 and thank God for the opportunity to be a leader, to be educated by some of the best science and nursing faculty, and the perseverance to follow my dreams,” Gardner said. “I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Pellicone for selecting me to receive their daughter’s memorial scholarship, and I want to thank everyone in this room tonight for supporting the Brookdale Community College Foundation.”
Also in attendance at the ball were Brookdale Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Carl Guzzo, vice chair Tracey Abby White and board members Dr. Henry Cram, Gary Tolchin and David Flaherty.
Click here to learn more about the Brookdale Foundation and its scholarship programs.
Check out more photos of the 2015 Scholarship Ball here.