First Recipients of Memorial Scholarships Announced

awardeesAwardees Plan to Study Education, Pursue Teaching as a Profession

(DANVERS, Massachusetts)-Tom, Peggie, Dan and Laura Ritzer announced Wednesday evening at the Danvers High School Senior Reception the first 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. Andover recipients will be announced June 9, 2014.

The first recipients of a Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship from Danvers include: Catherine J. Lamoly, Samantha L. Walters, Mary E. Leahy, Andrea M. Lang, Lily M. Cuzner and Sarah E. Mountain were selected to receive a scholarship award.  Scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $2,500, for a total of $12,000, were awarded to Danvers High School students.

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 Colleens’ 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 (Danvers)

Catherine J. Lamoly, who will attend Roger Williams University to pursue a degree in secondary education with history, was awarded a scholarship.

“In the future, when I become an educator, I strive to make as great an impact that Ms. Ritzer made on her students, myself included,” said Lamoly. “I am determined each day to emulate her kindness, optimism and love for teaching. Over the course of my next four years at college, I intend to further my knowledge in history and learn how to be an influential teacher who will make a positive impact on students, the way my teachers have for me.  My teachers are my heroes.”

Lamoly is a member of the Art National Honor Society and the Danvers Marching Band. She was also a member of the high school field hockey and softball teams.

Samantha L. Walters, who will attend Salem State University to pursue a degree in mathematics with a concentration in education, was awarded a scholarship.

Walters would often answer the question ‘what do you want be when you grow up’ with the response, a teacher.  Many would try to dissuade her from pursuing this goal, instead encouraging her to seek professions with higher salaries. However, other professions failed to satisfy her yearning to “inspire, help and encourage others, especially students.”

“Teachers have amazing jobs: they can do what they love and they can get a great sense of accomplishment in doing it,” said Walters. “They teach, influence and impact future generations.  Ms. Ritzer cared a lot about her students. No matter how many times kids complained about the materials we learned in our Algebra 2 class, there was never a dull moment because she knew how to keep the kids happy. She always reminded us to ‘just keep swimming’ when we needed just a little bit of hope. Anybody could see how passionate she was about her job; she loved helping kids.”

Walters is a volunteer for Heart of America Library Makeovers and Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice. She is also a member of the Math Team. Walters has been recognized for outstanding academic achievement in math and made the honor roll each of her four years at Danvers High School.

Mary E. Leahy, who will attend Wagner College in the fall to pursue a dual degree in early childhood general and special education, was awarded a scholarship.

“The next four years of college will help me become one step closer to living out my lifelong dream of becoming an elementary special education teacher,” said Leahy. “It will give me the tools and techniques I need in order to become the best teacher I can be. I am cognizant of the fact that first-year teachers do not make a lot of money, but rather are rich with the satisfaction of making a difference in student’s lives, watching them grow as students and people. I am prepared to live a simple life if that means I finally get to live out my dream.”

During her junior and senior year, Leahy volunteered at a local elementary school working in a second grade classroom for two hours each day where she was paired with a student learning English.  Leahy helped the student develop her reading, writing and math skills. Eventually she was provided the opportunity to develop lesson plans, then teach small groups of students.

Leahy is a member of the National Honor Society, Model UN, Tomorrow’s Teachers, DECA and volunteers for the Jolly Jaunt and Walk for Hospice.

Andrea M. Lang, who will attend the University of North Carolina, Wilmington to pursue a degree in elementary education, was awarded a scholarship.

“Experiencing the unique connection the teachers have with the students and their ability to reach out and have a genuine compassion for each student inspired me to have the same effect in the future,” said Lang.  “Being able to willingly and happily put others’ needs before my own and find joy in it is a skill that I have and will continue to take with me into my life to help me succeed in the rest of my educational experience and in life.”

Last year, Lang volunteered at Bridges to Community in Nicaragua, a nonprofit community development organization that takes volunteers to developing countries to work, learn and reflect. She has also volunteered at the Danvers Senior Center and for the Memory Walk.  In the classroom, Lang serves as a ‘Tomorrows Teachers’ volunteering in local elementary schools.

She is a member of the National English Honor Society, National Honor Society and a member of the student council. Her Marching Band efforts provided her the opportunity to perform in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Walt Disney World Holiday Parade, Rose Bowl Parade and the Universal Studio’s Holiday Parade. A section leader in the school band, Lang is also captain of the swim team.

Lily M. Cuzner, who will attend High Point University in North Carolina to study special education, was awarded a scholarship. Cuzner plans to enroll in the University’s five-year master’s program and receive an advanced degree in special education and elementary education. She then plans to return to Danvers to teach in the public school system.

“I expect the next four years of college to prepare me for the rest of my life because it is going to teach me the skills I need to be successful,” said Cuzner. “I love working with kids and I plan on going to college so I can continue to pursue this passion. This experience will prepare me to be the best teacher I can be and hopefully my passions for working with kids will be reflected in my work and in my students and what they will achieve.”

Cuzner has already begun to build a foundation for her future career as a teacher.  As an assistant group leader through Fun Club, an after school program, Cuzner was provided the opportunity to begin working with children such as assisting with homework. Shortly after she joined Fun Club, Cuzner was assigned to work with a child with severe learning and social disabilities.  By working with the student, Cuzner helped him to improve his grades and inspired her to pursue a degree in special education.

Sarah E. Mountain, who will attend Salem State University in the fall to pursue a degree in elementary education, was awarded a scholarship.  Mountain discovered early in life her passion for teaching. In elementary school on ‘hero day’ when students chose to dress up as a doctor or fireman, Mountain chose her teacher. In high school, her peers often seek her assistance on difficult assignments.

“Looking towards my future, I know that the impact my teachers have made on me is the influence I want to make on my students when I become a teacher,” said Mountain.  “Every teacher I have had has inspired me to become the person I am today. This will shape me into the role model I hope to become in the future. I dream someday to impact and shape the lives of students and inspire them to reach their dreams.”

Each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, Mountain volunteers for an after school program where her passion for teaching and interacting with children flourished. She is a section leader in the marching band, a member of the basketball and tennis team and a member of the National Music Honor Society.

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