• Greater Bergen Community Action

GBCA Awards 32 Local College-bound Youth with Lois A. Braithwaite Scholarships

GARFIELD, NJ –Greater Bergen Community Action (GBCA) awarded 32 local students scholarships in memory of the late Lois A. Braithwaite, GBCA Board Chair from 1992 until 2015. Lois was an advocate for people in need. She was a teacher, volunteer, founder of the James Street Block Association, and a recipient of the New Jersey State Governor's Jefferson Award for her exceptional community service. Lois was instrumental in helping GBCA reach out to the homeless and expand its Head Start program. Greater Bergen Community Action honors her legacy with this scholarship awarded to a select group of students who have shown the kind of spirit and vision exhibited by Lois.

Scholarship winners for the 2015-2016 academic year include:

Lissette Alicia Almonte – Lisette is a graduate of Hackensack High School where she was a member of the National Honor Society, president of the debate team, secretary of the Latin American Student Association and president of the Spanish Honor Society. She also found time to volunteer as a math tutor for ESL students. This fall, Lisette will be attending Rutgers to study Computer Science.

Juan G. Berrio – Juan is a graduate of Hackensack High School’s class of 2016. He also gained acceptance into the National Honor Society. Juan recalls what he describes as his toughest year at high school where he confronted just how difficult physics was. Juan will continue his academic pursuits at Cornell University this fall, where he will study Mechanical Engineering.

Zion Bayew - Zion is a recent graduate of Hackensack High School. He overcame many challenges to maintain great grades during his time at high school. He was a member of the Varsity Track and Junior Varsity Cross Country teams and won a total of 10 medals, including the prestigious Big Gold North Country medal and this fall will attend Kean University.

Jose E. Morocho – Jose is a 2016 graduate of Hackensack High School where he discovered his love for science and technology. He was a member of the Latin American Student Association (LASA), Spanish Honor Society (SHS), Future Business Leaders of America and the St. Francis of Assisi Faith Formation Program and he tutored children. Jose plans to attend Seton Hall this Fall to study Computer Engineering and Physics.

Bernard Baffue-Mensah – Born in the West African nation of Ghana. He attended Hackensack High School. Nervous about his transition, Bernard quickly acclimated and became a member of his school’s track team, Goin’ Green Club and Spanish Honor Society, and he became a member of the youth choir at his church. Bernard plans to study at Cornell University this fall where he will pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer.

Yvette A. Reynoso – Yvette is a 2016 graduate of Hackensack High School where she filled her schedule with extracurricular activities that will help her achieve her goal of becoming a teacher. Yvette volunteered to help children with autism and to teach religious education at her Sunday school. Yvette will attend New Jersey City University this fall, where she will study Special Education.

Lydia L. Charles – Lydia is a graduate of Wood-Ridge Junior- Senior High School’s class of 2016. Immigrating to the United States from Guyana, Lydia noted that she overcame many challenges surrounding communication and those of integrating into a new culture. She has come to embrace her new home and plans to attend Felician University this fall to study Business Administration.

Maria J. Correa – Coming to the United States from Colombia in 2012 and not knowing a word of English, and graduating four years later in 2016 from Wood-Ridge Junior-Senior High School, is truly a testament to Maria’s commitment to academics and the possession of a strong work ethic. In High School, she excelled in the sciences and was an active member of the Student Council. This fall, Maria will attend Middlebury College.

Brandon R. Gerber – Brandon is a graduate of Ridgefield Park Junior-Senior High School where he enjoyed being challenged academically and where he became a member of numerous honors, societies and sports teams, including the Jersey Boys State Leadership Program. Brandon also started his high school’s ping pong club. Brandon will attend Ramapo College of New Jersey to study Electronic Arts and Animation.

Eamon P. Dwyer – Eamon is a Ridgefield Park Junior- Senior High School Graduate who aspires to follow in the path of Lois A. Braithwaite, giving back to her community and looking out for the plight of those less fortunate. Eamon has taken AP Classes and volunteered with local sports teams to help younger generation to realize their dreams . Eamon will study Mechanical Engineering this fall at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Kvin C.J. Smith - Kvin is a graduate of Teaneck High School who identifies his mother as the source of his motivation and drive to do better in life. After a rocky start he soon got on track and excelled academically in High School where he took AP classes and participated in group activities at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, where he is a member. Kvin will attend William Paterson University to pursue a degree in Accounting.

Kareem L. Braxton - Graduating from Paramus Catholic High School, Kareem has balanced his time between advanced academic classes, sports (soccer and track) and over 200 hours of community service. His most memorable volunteer experience came from volunteering at Camp Snowflake, a camp designed for those with disabilities. This experience, he says, instilled a sense of maturity in him and gave him a better understanding of people who had different life experiences than he. Kareem will attend George Washington University this fall to study Economics

Wendy Lorena Colorado – Wendy completed Greater Bergen Community Action’s High School Equivalency Program and ESL Program in December, 2015. Wendy is now studying nutrition at Hudson County Community College with the goal of helping those with Cancer, battle the disease through nutrition.

Sonia A. Lopez – Sonia completed Greater Bergen Community Action’s High School Equivalency Program in May where she has shown a great passion for mental health awareness and helping those suffering from depression and other disorders, Sonia will continue her studies at Bergen County Community College this fall.

Mohamed H. Tabileh - Mohamed has overcome many challenges to find himself currently excelling in his studies at Bergen County Community College. Coming to the United States when he was 17 from Syria, Mohamed completed GBCA’s High School Equivalency Program and now works and studies at BCCC. Mohamed plans to pursue a degree in Engineering after his time at Bergen County Community College.

Bilal Kellemen – Immigrating to the United States from Turkey, Bilal completed GBCA’s High School Equivalency Program. Struggling with demands of integrating into a new society, the high school program allowed Bilal to simultaneously work and study. Bilal will study Information Technology beginning this fall and hopes to ultimately complete a Master’s Degree.

Yasmin A. Hussein – Yasmin is a fourth year student studying Pharmaceutical Science at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, where she maintains an outstanding academic record. Her choice of this field of study stems from her desire to give back to her community in an important and meaningful manner and have an impact on the health of her community. When she completes her current degree program, Yasmin plans to obtain a Doctorate in Pharmacy.

David C. Dubois­ – David is a 2016 graduate of Bergen Catholic High School who has had the privilege of being personally motivated by Lois Braithwaite since a young age. He volunteered to speak to youth who were at risk of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Being a contributing member in his community, David balanced his time between school work, and his interests in substance abuse prevention. He was Bergen Catholic’s first ever Student Guidance Intern. David will study criminal justice and psychology this fall at Rutgers University.

Jonathan S. Carangui – Jonathan recently graduated from Hackensack High School where he was able to overcome adversity and succeed in school. Jonathan recalls that on his first day at school he only knew one word of English. Overcoming the isolation that came from a limited English proficiency during his early school years, and became the Vice President of his school’s environmental Goin’ Green Club and served as a member of the Medical Club and the Latin American Student Association. Jonathan will be the first in his family to attend college when, this fall, he will attend Rutgers University to study Computer Science.

Ianiz Patchedjiev – Ianiz recently finished his first year of studies at NJIT where he is majoring in Chemical Engineering. His volunteer activities included reading to children enrolled in GBCA’S Head Start Program, building homes with Habitat for Humanity. Ianiz is, himself, a product of Head Start. Ianiz will continue his studies at NJIT this fall.

Melis M Cokuslu – Melis is a 2016 graduate of Cliffside Park High School. Melis developed a great appreciation for community service. While at school, Melis volunteered as an assistant teacher at The Ataturk School, a Turkish school in Manhattan. She also volunteered on the patient care floor at Hackensack University Medical Center Palisades in North Bergen. Melis will study at Sarah Lawrence College this fall.

Alaa Haddabeh – Alaa is a 2016 graduate of Cliffside Park High School. Every summer, Alaa spent his vacations volunteering at a children’s day care center in Florida. He also takes pride in helping organize a local fundraising race to promote Diabetes awareness. This fall, Alaa will study Computer Science at NJIT.

Marissa Kerri Braswell - Marissa is a 2016 graduate of Teaneck High School where she showcased her passion for music in her school’s band and her love of competitive swimming as her school’s swim team captain. She became a member of the National Honor Society and has volunteered with Shelter Our Sisters and the Center for Food Action as a member of the Girl Scouts. This fall she will attend Colgate University where she plans to study International Relations.

William E. Beavers - William is a 2016 graduate of Teaneck High School. There he played clarinet for his school’s band and participated in many community service events including a clothing drive, the 2014 Teaneck Pack-a-thon for Haiti and fundraising for the Community Scholarship Fund of Teaneck. William will study Mathematics and Statistics at Montclair State University this fall.

Maame Amoako - Maame is a 2016 graduate of Teaneck High School where she not only thrived academically but also was a mentor in the Big Brother Big Sister Program and in another program called STRIVE to help student athletes. With aspirations of becoming a pediatrician, Maame will begin her studies at Northeastern University this fall.

Caleb E. Washington - Caleb is a 2016 graduate of Teaneck High School. During his time at school, he became a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Hackensack where he became active in the Youth Ministry and a member of the youth choir. He also volunteered in the Feeding of the Homeless Ministry. Caleb’s goal is to work within the television industry one day and will begin a course of study in Graphic Design at Bergen County Community College this fall.

Tara D. Berberabe – Tara is a 2016 graduate of Dr. Ronald E McNair Academic High School in Jersey City. After completing an internship with a local nonprofit, she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in business. She has set her sights on working in a not-for-profit business like the one she interned with, so that she can have the opportunity to participate in or create her own projects to inspire others to get involved. Tara will be attending Saint Peter’s University this fall.

Naomy Tineo – Naomy recently graduated from the Rosa L. Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts in Paterson. She participated in the Paterson Youth Council and the Interact Club, and in the building of an elementary school playground, hosting a block party to welcome children back to school, and giving bagged lunches to the homeless. This fall Naomy will attend Fairleigh Dickenson University where she plans to study Media Communications. She ultimately aims to earn a Master’s in Creative Writing to help her become a screenwriter.

Juliana Braka - Juliana is a graduate of Rosa Park’s High School of Fine and Performing Arts in Paterson, where she focused her studies on Communication Arts. Juliana served in the Interact Club, the Paterson Youth Council and the Girl Scouts. This fall Juliana will attend the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts in NYC, where she will study film making.

Alexandra O. Brown - Alexandra is a graduate of International High School in Paterson. She served as Class Treasurer in her student government organization and as a member of the Great Falls Teen Center, where she has worked on community service projects. This fall Alexandra will attend Morgan State University in Maryland to study Psychology.

Zydrique Amar Williamson – Zydrique, a graduate of International High School in Paterson, was greatly motivated by his uncle, who, by example, taught him that he alone is in control of his destiny and that there is nothing that he cannot achieve through hard work and dedication. Zydrique will attend Kean University in the fall.


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Greater Bergen Community Action is a 501(c) (3), not-for-profit Community Action Agency. Established in 1967, Greater Bergen is part of a nationwide network of poverty-fighting enterprises which were established as part of the nation’s effort to address the intractable and persistent problem of poverty in America.

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