Danvers High Graduates Awarded 2016 Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarships

danv(ANDOVER, Massachusetts)-Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura Ritzer have announced the 2016 recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, awarded to graduating high school seniors who will pursue education as a major in college and carry on Colleen’s legacy as a caring and compassionate teacher. This year, the family will award a total of $32,500 in scholarships, including $13,500 to first-year recipients and $19,000 to previous year’s recipients. Since 2014, $86,500 in college scholarships have been awarded to future teachers.

The 2016 scholarship recipients from Danvers include Lillie Hodgkins, Kristen McCarthy, Lindsay Richard and Eileen Vandewalle. Andover recipients include Rachel Drew and Maddy Reppucci. Scholarship recipients from. The family also awarded scholarships to graduating Nashoba Regional High School seniors Anna Fateiger, Erica Taft and Alicia Torres. Colleen taught at Hale Middle School in Stow after college; the students she taught at Stow are graduating from Nashoba Regional High School.

The scholarship fund is supported by individual donations made since the scholarship was established in October 2013 as well as the annual 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 learning with future students.

“The recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Scholarship bear a significant responsibility to carry on Colleen’s legacy as caring and compassionate teachers who are committed to their students’ success, just like our daughter and sister Colleen,” said the Ritzer family. “We are grateful to the many individuals who continue to support the scholarship fund, including the thousands who participate in the annual Step Up for Colleen. Through these students, the scholarship recipients, Colleen will continue to inspire and empower teachers and their students to work tirelessly in pursuit of their dreams.”

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 has inspired them. 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, Danvers or Nashoba Regional 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.


Danvers High School graduate Lillie Hodgkins will attend Assumption College, Colleen Ritzer’s alma mater this fall where she will pursue a degree in education with a minor in special education. Hodgkins led a busy schedule while in high school as a member of Tomorrow’s Teachers, Best Buddies and DECA. She was manager for the volleyball team and played on the lacrosse team.

“All of my life I have been inspired by my teachers,” shared Hodgkins in her essay. “Whether it’s the way they help me when I don’t understand something, or by recognizing my insecurities and being someone I am comfortable telling anything to, they have all impacted my future. I believe teaching is one of the most stressful and exhausting, yet rewarding, jobs there can be and I cannot wait to begin.”

Hodgkins was a member of the World Language National Honor Society, the Art National Honor Society and was named to the Honor Roll in each of her four years at Danvers High School. She was also a state qualifier at a DECA marketing competition.

Kristen McCarthy will also attend Assumption College, where she will major in elementary education and mathematics and play on the field hockey team.

“Through teaching, you can inspire but you can learn more from your students,” explained McCarthy in her essay. “Children can teach you more things about your own self than you knew existed. I want to become the teacher that everyone loves and looks forward to seeing, but also the one who teaches and leaves a lasting mark on her students, just as Ms. Ritzer did for her students. Ms. Ritzer will forever be the teacher I aspire to be. I would be lucky to become even half the teacher she was.”

McCarthy held leadership positions on the field hockey, hockey and lacrosse teams. She was secretary of the National Honor Society and participated in DECA, an association of marketing students. McCarthy is a member of Tomorrow’s Teachers and was a co-president of the Book Club.

Lindsay Richard will attend the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire in pursuit of a degree in secondary special education with a goal of becoming an English teacher. At Danvers High School, Richard was a member of the National Honor Society, the Chamber Singers and selected to be the student director of Ingrid Sound a Capella, the schools all-female a cappella group. She also was a co-teacher at her church.

“Several people have inspired me in wanting to obtain a degree in education,” wrote Richard in her essay. “My choral director is a wonderful person, and he is a daily reminder of how much of an effect a teacher can have on their students. My degree in education will enable me to pursue this dream of being able to help others and have a valuable impact on the lives of others.”

Richard was recognized for her musical talents with the Ingrid Sound a Capella’s Director’s Award. She was also selected to the Northeast Junior District Chorus as a freshman and the Northeast Senior District chorus as a sophomore.

Eileen Vandewalle will attend the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where she will major in elementary education with a goal of also obtaining certification in special education.

Vandewalle’s extra-curricular activities include a soloist with the a capella group Falconize; actress with Danvers High School Theatre; volunteer with the Northeast ARC; singer with the Northeast District Choir   and member of the Danvers High Student Board, National Honor Society, World Language Honors Society and Volleyball Club.

“I believe that helping and caring for others in this world is something one should always try to do,” wrote Vandewalle in her essay. “In teaching children, I will be given a way to help enrich and positively influence future generations, and I will be able to express my overwhelming care for children and their individual needs. To be a teacher is to dedicate yourself to helping and being good to people, and that is the legacy I want to leave behind.”

Her impressive list of recognitions include All-Star acting awards; the Danvers Choral Collaborative’s Director’s Award; Danvers High Best Actress awards; and outstanding achievement in chorus.

The Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund is held at the Essex County Community Foundation.