First Andover Recipients of Memorial Scholarships Announced

recpientfamilyAwardees Plan to Study Education, Pursue Teaching as a Profession

(ANDOVER, Massachusetts)-Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura Ritzer announced yesterday morning at the Andover High School Senior Awards Breakfast the first Andover recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship awarded to graduating seniors who plan to pursue education as a major in college. The awardees demonstrate a passion for teaching, academic excellence and possess a great love of family.

The first recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship from Andover include: Christine A. Aumais, Courtney L. Comeau, Elizabeth P. Dever, Emily J. Felter, Jessica C. Ferronetti and Carly N. Sakellarios.  Scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $2,500, for a total of $12,000, were awarded to Andover High School students.

The family announced last week $12,000 in scholarships for Danvers High School seniors. Yesterday’s announcement totals $24,000 in scholarships awarded during this first year of the scholarship program.

The scholarship fund is supported by individual donations that were made in the wake of Colleen’s passing last October as well as the Step Up for Colleen Ritzer 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 teaching with future students.

“Each day, through her sincere enthusiasm and passion, Colleen shared her love of teaching and math with her students,” said the Ritzer Family.  “Not only did she enjoy her profession, but she was committed to her students’ understanding of complex subject matter and ultimately their success as students and individuals. The individuals selected for a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship will assist individuals who- like Colleen- discovered early in life their passion for teaching. We cannot begin to express our sincere gratitude to the many individuals and organizations, near and far, who selflessly gave to support the scholarship fund that is creating Colleen’s legacy: a new generation of caring, passionate teachers driven to inspire and help their students succeed. We wish all of the scholarship recipients the very best in this next, exciting phase of their lives.”

Andover and Danvers students completed an application that requested information such as extra-curricular activities, awards and recognitions and plans for college.  Applicants were also asked to submit a 500-word essay piece 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 or Danvers High School seniors who plan to pursue a degree in the field of education at an accredited four-year college or university.  Guidance counselors at both schools 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 High School English Teacher.

2014 Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Recipients (Andover)

 Christine A. Aumais, who will attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to pursue the education field with the dream of becoming a social studies teacher, was awarded a scholarship.

“Growing up, I never wanted to be a teacher, but when I reached high school, something changed,” said Aumais. “I realized a teacher does so much more than just help kids learn the Pythagorean Theorem, or find the true meaning of a poem. I realized I became the person I did because of the teachers I had. High school is a time when kids discover themselves and realize what their goals and passions are, and at such a critical time in someone’s life they need people to guide them and help them explore every aspect of themselves. Upon realizing the importance of teachers, I realized that I wanted to be that person. I want to help kids reach their potential and realize their dreams.”

Aumais made the Honor Roll in each of her four years at Andover High School where she was also a member of the track and field team and captain of the field hockey team. She is a leader in her church youth group and served as a coach for the middle school track program. A volunteer for the school’s Red Cross Club, she also served as a volunteer at Camp Tricklin’ Falls. Aumais is the middle of three sisters and shared, “my sisters are my role models, support system and best friends.”

Courtney L. Comeau, who will attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to pursue a degree in education, was awarded a scholarship.

“I have been coaching elementary, middle school and special needs children in track and cheerleading for the past five years,” said Comeau. “It makes me feel good about myself when I help children overcome challenges and master new skills. When I think of my future, I am driven by the thoughts of combining my coaching and classroom skills to help students and athletes. The most important qualities a teacher can have are compassion and understanding.”

Comeau was a member of the cheerleading squad and the captain of fall and spring track and field teams. In addition to serving on those teams, she was also an AJFL cheering coach and DCS, middle school and Special Olympics coach. The Boston Globe named her to the all-star track team. Comeau will build upon the skills she has developed as a coach and apply those skills in the classroom to make a difference in the lives of her future students.

Elizabeth P. Dever, who will attend the University of Connecticut and enroll in the five-year education program to earn a bachelors and masters degree, was awarded a scholarship. Her inspiration in pursuing education as a profession was her Mom, who recently began a second career as a teacher.

“Since before I can remember, being a teacher was always in the back of my mind,” said Dever. “My main inspiration in pursuing education is definitely my Mom. This is the first year she has been a teacher and I can see how happy she is going to work everyday. Like her, I want to make an impact on the students that I will one day teach.”

Dever was named to the Honor Roll in each of her four years at Andover. A member of Greater Lawrence Rowing and recipient of the High Five Sportsmanship Award, she works one-on-one with fourth grade students at Frost Elementary School and was a senior member of the Student to Student Peer Mentoring program. A soccer coach and CCD teacher, she also served as a tutor at Sanborn Elementary School. Dever also spent many afternoons during her senior year volunteering at the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club helping children with their homework and is the oldest of four children and shared “something I am proud of is being a role model for my younger siblings.”

Emily J. Felter, who will attend Endicott College to pursue a degree in elementary education, was awarded a scholarship. As a swim instructor who worked with a child diagnosed with Down syndrome, her passion for teaching grew through both of their successes.

“At a very early time in my childhood I realized I wanted to be a teacher,” said Felter.  “My experiences as a swim instructor have shown me that having a job I love makes all the hard work worth it. I know that college requires this intense amount of work but when I am preparing for a career where I am most content, the work is no longer laborious but an exciting means to becoming a great teacher.”

Felter is a member of the National Honor Society, church youth group, Prom Committee and the track and field team. She also served as a peer mentor and student ambassador for Freshman Orientation and is the recipient of the Boston Globe’s Scholastic Art Award. In her application, she shared the importance of family in her life, a family that has supported her dream of becoming a teacher.

Jessica C. Ferronetti, who will attend Assumption College to pursue a degree in secondary education with a concentration in math or Spanish, was awarded a scholarship.

“At Andover High, I have had many great teachers who love what they are doing,” said Ferronetti. “However I have had one Spanish teacher, Senora Guadiano who has inspired me to do what I love. She works with every student in order to understand what their weaknesses are, and always tries her best to help them gain more confidence in that area. She has inspired me to work harder at everything. I hope that one day, I can be an amazing teacher to my students like she has been for me.”

Ferronetti, is a member of the National Honor Society and various choir groups. She is a recipient of the Girl Scouts’ Silver Award and is in the progress of earning a Gold Award.

Carly N. Sakellarios, who will attend Assumption College to pursue a degree in education, was awarded a scholarship. Since she was in kindergarten, Sakellarios has expressed her dream to become a teacher.

“Teachers have immensely huge impacts on the students they interact with, and my past has proven that,” said Sakellarios. “My first elementary school teacher, Mrs. Woo, taught my kindergarten class. She carried the class with joy and energy and had a generally calm nature about her that made me feel safe and cared for in her classroom. This initial inspiration helped me decide that I wanted to be a teacher; one that would be a conscientious person with a caring personality, and have the characteristics that would inspire my own students.”

Sakellarios is a mentor in the Students Helping Students and Kid to Kid Mentoring programs and a CCD teacher. She anticipates that the next four years will prepare her for her career as a teacher by providing the knowledge and experience she’ll require to change the lives of her future students. Sakellarios is an Honor Roll student who has challenged herself in Honors level classes in English, Latin and social studies. Sakellarios, who is the oldest of four children and knew Colleen Ritzer, shared “Colleen was the type of sister I wanted to be.”

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