Andover Residents Awarded Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship

The family of Colleen Ritzer, Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura, today announced the 2018 recipients of the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, awarded to graduating high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree in education at a four-year accredited college. This year, the applicant pool was expanded to include students graduating from private schools who reside in Andover or Danvers. Through their receipt of this Scholarship, the recipients will strive to carry on Colleen’s legacy as a caring and compassionate teacher.

This year, the Ritzer family awarded over $50,000 in Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarships, including $18,000 to 2018 graduating seniors and over $30,000 to previous years’ recipients. Since its inception in 2014, nearly $190,000 in scholarships have been awarded to 48 future teachers.

The 2018 Scholarship recipients from Andover include Emma Dyer, Mackenzie Evans, Mikayla Goodwin, Caroline Medwar, Olivia Raza and Emalie Tjalsma.

The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund is supported by donations made in the wake of Colleen’s passing in October 2013 as well as the Step Up for Colleen 5K Walk/Run and other tribute events held to honor Colleen’s life and legacy. The Scholarship 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.

“With the inaugural recipients of the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship graduating from college this year, the first generation of teachers following in Colleen’s footsteps will soon enter their own classrooms,” said the Ritzer family. “Our family is extremely grateful for the support the Scholarship fund has received which has allowed Colleen’s legacy to continue to inspire and impact students and teachers. We look forward to following the journeys of all the recipients, now and in the future, as they embrace Colleen’s passion for teaching and kindness.”

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 graduating Andover or Danvers residents 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 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 Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Recipients

Emma Dyer, a graduate from Andover High School, will attend the University of New Hampshire where she plans to pursue a degree in early education. While in high school, Dyer served in a leadership position on the board of directors of the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club; a member of the ice hockey cheerleading team and captain her senior year; an active volunteer at her church; a member of the Animal Rights Club; and a devoted babysitter to a local family.

Dyer’s guidance counselor spoke highly of her stating, “Emma has developed excellent leadership skills through high school that she is ready to use in college while pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher.”

For several years, Dyer babysat and worked with a local family that influenced her to become a teacher that consciously makes a difference in the lives of her students.

“As I have observed how I can make one person turn from being so discouraged to being so proud, I have realized that I want to pursue a career as a teacher,” explained Dyer in her scholarship essay. “This unique connection and friendship has inspired me to dedicate my life to making a positive impact on others in formative and significant ways. I am ready for the challenge.”

Mackenzie Evans plans to major in elementary education with a minor in Spanish at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire with a dream of becoming a special education teacher. At Andover High School, Evans was co-founder of the creative writing club; a member of the National Honor Society, the Varsity Lacrosse Team and the Indoor Track and Field Team; and a mentor of My Own Voice choir, dance class and the Excel Program.

Evans was also a program coordinator at the Lazarus House Summer Reading and Art Program, a program she organized to inspire children to read more to strengthen their reading level and participate in fun activities and crafts.

Evans is striving to make a difference as she begins her career as a teacher.

“I want to unite the educational community and have other elementary school children learn that outside appearance does not define a person,” Evans explained. “In my own classroom, it is my goal to make those with special needs feel valued, and to build a future of children, and adults alike, who are accepting of them.”

Mikayla Goodwin, an Andover High School graduate, will attend Saint Anselm College where she hopes to pursue a degree in elementary education. While in high school, she was a member of the softball team, soccer team and the Students Against Destructive Decisions club; a student-athlete volunteer for Warrior Way; and vice president of her local Greek Orthodox Youth of America group.

Goodwin is dedicated to her family and greatly values the relationships she has formed through her family and church. She admired her first grade teacher and continues to develop that relationship so that she, too, may become a successful teacher like her one day.

“The relationship I had with my first grade teacher made me want to be just like her. She is an inspiration to all of her students and I would like nothing more to have that impact on my future students,” Goodwin wrote in her scholarship essay. “I hope to become a teacher and create these special bonds, touching the lives of small children just as [my teacher] did for me” 

Caroline Medwar, an Andover resident, recently graduated from Central Catholic High School. She plans to major in elementary education when she attends the University of New Hampshire this fall. During high school, Medwar held a number of roles through extracurricular activities including a player on the varsity field hockey and ice hockey teams; religious education teacher at St. Augustine Parish; a student ambassador of the Central Catholic High School Leadership Program; a campus ministry leader; and volunteer for the Special Olympics.

“I believe she will make a wonderful teacher with her natural talents and her compassionate nature,” said Medwar’s guidance counselor about her potential as a teacher. “She has also gained some exposure to the field in her work as a volunteer teacher, and has gained an understanding of what it takes to maintain control while trying to both teach and motivate young children.”

Through various school projects and volunteer endeavors, Medwar gained a new perspective that she will bring to her own classroom.

“I realized that I do enjoy the most important part of school: sharing knowledge with other people,” explained Medwar. “While I’ve always thought I’d like to be a teacher, it wasn’t until my experience with [another student] that I realized how rewarding helping others can be.”

Olivia Raza, an Austin Preparatory School graduate from Andover, will attend Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida where she will major in elementary education to begin her journey to becoming a teacher. While at Austin Prep, Raza was a tutor at Cougar Academic Training; a Senior Retreat leader; a member of the cross country, spring and winter track teams, dance club, Spanish club and culinary club; and a table leader at Vacation Bible School. She also attended a five day UNITAS service trip with St. Augustine’s Parish, where she was provided the opportunity to help those who are less fortunate.

“Olivia’s desire to be an elementary education teacher suits her perfectly,” said Raza’s mathematics teacher. “She is highly organized with a love of learning. More importantly, Olivia has a kind and generous personality.”

Ever since Raza was a child, she dreamed of becoming a teacher. “As I grew up, I realized that teaching was more than just a game I enjoyed playing and that it was what I wanted to do when I got older,” said Raza. “I want to inspire young kids to want to learn, be curious, and ask questions. I want to make a positive impact in kids’ lives.”

Emalie Tjalsma plans to attend Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario where she will pursue a degree in the concurrent education program. During her time at Andover High School, she participated in and contributed to Relay for Life, Peer Mentoring, mission trips to New York, tutoring, student government, Cor Unum Meal Center, and Neighbors in Need.

“What makes Emalie stand out is her ability to be introspective to the point where she is motivated enough to challenge herself,” said Tjalsma’s teacher. “She knows her weaknesses and makes them her strengths. She is continually improving herself.”

Working with children with special needs allowed Tjalsma to discover her passion. “It would put a smile on my face and warm my heart when I saw [her] feel accomplished,” she explained. “I want to guide and teach others who need support and help them to get to that feeling of being understood and successful. I want to help them discover and reach their own potential.”