New Jersey SEEDS Congratulates Scholars and Young Scholars Graduates

On Saturday, August 5, New Jersey SEEDS celebrated the graduation of 113 students enrolled in its Scholars and Young Scholars Programs. For 25 years, New Jersey SEEDS has provided educational access for motivated, high-achieving students from low-income families across the state. Ninety-six percent of this year’s graduates were placed in selective middle or high schools with enough financial aid to matriculate. Enrolling students will receive more than $4.3 million from these partner institutions in the fall.

“Our Scholars, Young Scholars and their families should be very proud,” says John F. Castano, Executive Director of New Jersey SEEDS. “For the past 14 months, these rising sixth-, seventh-, and ninth-graders have worked tirelessly – spending two summers with us and the Saturdays in between – to advance their education and prepare to enroll in these new schools. I also want to thank our partner institutions for continuing to provide the financial aid for our scholars to attend. The zip code that a child was born into should not define where they are going in life.”

Both the Scholars and Young Scholars Programs are free 14-month initiatives for high-achieving, low-income students. The Scholars Program serves students across the state during their eighth-grade year, providing additional coursework and application assistance for selective high schools. The Young Scholars Program works with students in the Greater Newark area in the fifth and sixth grades. In addition to academic classes, SEEDS helps students and their families with applications to selective day and junior boarding schools.

Before the presentation of diplomas, several students were honored for their academic and community achievements over their 14 months with SEEDS.

  • Yara Attia (Phillips Academy – Andover ’21) was the recipient of this year’s Dean’s Award for her overall achievement, strong leadership, citizenship, exceptional academic qualities and positive personality while enrolled in the Scholars Program.
  • Natalie Cangas (Concord Academy ’21) was named the Dwight L. Wilson Scholar for her personal and work ethics, honesty, integrity, and love of education while enrolled in the New Jersey SEEDS Scholars Program.
  • Orion Douglas (Cambridge School of Weston ’21) and Quiana Rodriguez (Chatham Hall School ’21) were the recipients of The Angela Shankar Foundation Awards, which are presented to students with a strong community focus.
  • Roy Escobar (Stevens Cooperative School ’19) was named the Alumni Scholar for representing the ideal SEEDS student.
  • Zion Hobbs (Morristown-Beard School ’21) was named the Robert Greifeld Scholar for his resiliency and strong dedication to his education.
  • Bryan Jimenez (Phillips Academy – Andover ‘21) was named the Blair MacInnes Scholar for his outstanding academic achievement and dedication to education while enrolled in the New Jersey SEEDS Scholars Program.
  • Isadora Martinez (Newark Academy ’24) was named the Edward & Barbara Becker Scholar for her outstanding academic achievement and exemplary work while in the Young Scholars Program.
  • Daniela Rodriguez (Stony Brook School ’21) was named the Miguel Brito Scholar for her generosity, spirit of high ethical standards, dedication to her education and willingness to help others learn.
  • Norbal Vazquez, Jr. (St. Mark’s School ’21) was named the Piantino Family Scholar for his strong community focus and plans to bring opportunities back to his neighborhood.
  • Wilona Wiafe (Deerfield Academy ’21) was named the Amy Ziebarth Scholar for her passion for social justice and strong commitment to SEEDS.

More than 600 family members, friends, SEEDS faculty and supporters joined students at the commencement at Summit High School. Millenah Nascimento (Scholars Program ’13, Madeira School ’17, Dartmouth College ’21) welcomed SEEDS alumna and Trustee Taffi Ayodele (Scholars Program ’96, Newark Academy ’00, New York University ’04, New York University ‘13) as the morning’s keynote speaker. Guests also heard from student speakers Francine Diaz (Scholars Program ‘17, St. James School ‘21) and Roy Escobar (Young Scholars Program ’17, Stevens Cooperative School ‘19).

“Congratulations to Scholars and Young Scholars,” says Imani K. Gilliam, Dean of Programs at New Jersey SEEDS. “Over the past 14 months, the Programs team and I have watched you grow academically into even more inquisitive and scholarly students. We are so proud of all you have accomplished and know that you will be successful in all that you put your mind to in the future.”

Congratulations to the New Jersey SEEDS Scholars and Young Scholars in the Class of 2017!

Young Scholars Program:

Peter Barkley III: Fessenden School
Umu Diallo: Rectory School
Roy Escobar: Stevens Cooperative School
Tiana Evans: Newark Academy
Lanaye Harris Bornell: Montclair Cooperative School
Samiya Hill: North Star Academy
Jahnay Ibukun: Montclair Cooperative School
Irene Ledo: Far Brook School
Isadora Martinez: Newark Academy
Andre Masache: Chatham Day School
William Neto: Willow School
Lucas Pagoto-Santos: Montclair Cooperative School
Adrian Pierre: Delbarton School
Shaniya Riddle: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Mia Rivera-Diaz: Willow School
Cesar Rodas: Rectory School
Natalie Rosado: Montclair Cooperative School
William Simms: Montclair Kimberley Academy
Alana Smith: Morristown-Beard School
Yasheka Smith: Heywood Avenue Elementary
Kaywan Williams: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Samiyah Woods: Chatham Day School

Scholars Program:
Blessing Akinmade: Dublin School
Carlos Amaya: Wardlaw-Hartridge School
Emma Anane: Lawrence Academy
Nichols Andrade: West Essex High School
Rahkiyah Arrington: Buxton School
Yara Attia: Phillips Academy – Andover
Daniel Atwell: Woodberry Forest School
Chidi Azuike: Princeton International School of Mathematics & Science
Satrant Bains: Fryeburg Academy
Amma Boamah-Appiah: Brooks School
Jose Bocanegra: Church Farm School
Sebastian Bravo: Oratory Preparatory School
Kayla Caldera: The Hudson School
Natalie Cangas: Concord Academy
Nathalie Charles: Westminster School
Jannat Chaudry: Kent Place School
Dallas Collins: Concord Academy
Rhea Davis: Immaculate Conception High School
Simeon Davis: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Francine Diaz: St. James School
Sherlyn Diaz: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Orion Douglas: Cambridge School of Weston
Heidy Duran: Linsly School
Lemachi Enweremadu: Delbarton School
Tiffany Fales: High Tech High School
Xavier Figueroa: Loomis Chaffee School
Fernando Garcia: High Tech High School
Jesus Garcia: St. Andrew’s School (FL)
Nicole Garcia: Union County Magnet School
Ashley Grullon: Kent School
Shamira Guillaume: Masters School
Alexandra Guillen: Christ the King Preparatory School
Mohamed Hassaneen: Montclair Kimberley Academy
Zion Hobbs: Morristown-Beard School
Amolroop Hundal: St. George’s School
Kenza Idrissi: Pennington School
Erokpaedamwen Iyamu: Governor’s Academy
Faith Jackson: Darrow School
Bryan Jimenez: Phillips Academy – Andover
Kathleen Johnson: Moorestown Friends School
Avdeep Kaur: Stoneleigh-Burnham School
Emily Kowallo: Choate Rosemary Hall
Jaideep Lalli: Darrow School
Jinayah Lighty: International High School
Caitlin Lizama: The Hudson School
Aidan Losa: Asheville School
Ahmed Mahmud: McNair Academic High School
Marco Malo: Mercersburg Academy
Amy Martinez: Salem Academy
Allan Mayeregger: Christian Brothers Academy
Justin McDonald: Church Farm School
Travian McNair: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Noelle Mitchell: Buxton School
Keidy Molina: St. Mark’s School
Travon Monlyn, Jr.: Trinity-Pawling School
Nicole Mora: Elizabeth High School
Arianna Morataya: St. Paul’s School
Leslie Moreno: High Tech High School
Rayne Moss: Cambridge School of Weston
Kendell Muldrow: McNair Academic High School
Real Nix: Newark Academy
Abolaji Oke: Linsly School
Ajibola Oke: Cate School
Ashley Ordaz: Passaic County Technical Institute
Mikeaella Ordonez-Ron: Union High School
Shamia Ortiz: Solebury School
Ransell Perez: Church Farm School
Simonne Ponce: Westminster School
Olivia Puzio: Montclair Kimberley Academy
Sean Quaye: Canterbury School
Joaquin Quezada: Seton Hall Preparatory School
Afiqur Rahman: Church Farm School
Joann Ramirez: Cushing Academy
Daniela Rodriguez: Stony Brook School
Quiana Rodriguez: Chatham Hall School
Ocean Saric: Hackley School
Jaskaran Singh: Darrow School
Sahibveer Singh: Episcopal High School
Sarah Sobh: Emma Willard School
Rebecca Sosa-Coba: Princeton International School of Mathematics & Science
Violeta Suarez: Peddie School
Aay-Janae Taylor: Kent School
Binuki Thiruchelvam: Phillips Exeter Academy
Malea Tift: Lawrenceville School
Nathaly Tlaseca-Verde: Kimball Union Academy
Ariella Uribe: Masters School
Ximena Varon: High Tech High School
Norbal Vazquez: St. Mark’s School
Lizbeth Velasco: Thacher School
Jameelah Wallace: West Nottingham Academy
Wilona Wiafe: Deerfield Academy

Special thanks to the following corporations and foundations for supporting the Scholars and/or Young Scholars Programs this year: Achelis & Bodman Foundations; Allergan Foundation; an anonymous corporation; Bank of America; Capital Group Companies; Charles E. and Edna T. Brundage Foundation; Ralph M. Cestone Foundation; Colgate-Palmolive Company; The Fairbairn Family Foundation; Investors Bank Foundation; Clara Louella Day Jeffrey Charitable Residuary Trust; Jockey Hollow Foundation; Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund, Inc.; Page & Otto Marx, Jr. Foundation; David Mathey Foundation; Curtis W. McGraw Foundation; Neuberger Berman; New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company; PNC Foundation; Norman & Bettina Roberts Foundation; Sanofi/Aventis; Lillian P. Schenck Fund; The William E. Simon Foundation; Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation; Henry S. & Agnes M. Truzack Foundation; Union Foundation; Lucy and Eleanor S. Upton Charitable Foundation; and Victoria Foundation.

For 25 years, New Jersey SEEDS has provided educational access for highly motivated, low-income students and created a viable path for them to achieve their full potential. SEEDS strives for a world in which young people’s initiative, creativity and intellect can flourish without regard to socioeconomic status. Since SEEDS’ founding in 1992, more than 2,300 scholars have graduated from its programs. For more information, visit