By Jillian Decker, Director of Development
Each year the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation awards two (2) $2,500.00 scholarships, sponsored by Affinity Federal Credit Union, to high school seniors from New Jersey who plan to further their education at a college, university or trade/technical school. These scholarships are awarded directly to the students with proof of enrollment with the freedom to use the funds however they are most needed – books, supplies, and more.
Students who tour the Memorial with our Vietnam Veteran Tour Guides gain insight that reaches far beyond the classroom. Firsthand accounts and reflection on the effects of the War have an immeasurable impact, as noted by 2018 scholarship winner, Erica Soya:
“Writing an essay for this scholarship for some reason felt different to me than all the other essays I wrote; I felt particularly connected to the memorial when writing this, especially due to growing up with family members in the army, as well as getting a tour from a Vietnam veteran. I didn’t struggle to write this, nor did I feel forced- It was something I truly felt strongly about. I felt I that I had a real voice. Being able to experience something as moving as the Vietnam Memorial had much more of an impact than writing the thousand other essays about where I see myself in 5 years, or why I think I belong at a certain school. Looking beyond the statues to learn the meaning of each one was much more meaningful than writing something about myself for the third time. It forced me to move beyond my comfort zone and think about the effect it had on the troops, on their loved ones, on the people of the United States. I had the opportunity to explain how each piece connected to the next, what it meant to me, and more importantly how it changed my perspective. It was there that I noticed I take so much for granted, and there that I decided to be grateful every day for what I have. It was there that I saw how lucky I was to have such incredibly strong men and women fighting so I could live freely. I think taking the opportunity to visit this memorial will not only show students the courage and bravery of our American troops, but encourage us all to be better, more selfless versions of ourselves.”
Soya, who graduated from Red Bank Regional High School in 2018, is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Communication and Media Sciences at Loyola University. Also awarded a 2018 scholarship was Rachael Staino from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, who is currently enrolled at Clemson University. Our 2019 recipients were Meghan Merenich and John Grasso.
In addition to the online scholarship application and proof of acceptance to a college or trade school, all applicants must submit an essay about his/her visit to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Completed application packages must be received online via the above link by 4:00 PM, Friday, April 10, 2020 (faxes and emails are not accepted).
The Scholarship Committee will select two winners from all eligible applications. The winners will be notified by Friday, May 15, 2020. Those not selected will not receive any form of notification. The winners will be required to submit confirmation of enrollment to a college, university or trade school in the form of an enrollment deposit. The winners must attend the Foundation’s Memorial Day Ceremony at 11:00 AM, Monday, May 25, 2020 and read their essays as part of the Ceremony. Scholarship checks will be awarded as part of the Ceremony.
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation Scholarship Program is made possible through the generous support of Affinity Federal Credit Union.