New Jersey SEEDS Scholars and Young Scholars Graduates Head off to the Nation’s Top Selective Middle and High Schools

One hundred and eighteen rising sixth-, seventh- and ninth-graders celebrated their New Jersey SEEDS graduations earlier this month. These students, all members of SEEDS’ Young Scholars Program and Scholars Program, respectively, completed 14 months of rigorous academic coursework with SEEDS over the course of two summers and the Saturdays in between.

Both 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. 

Ninety-eight percent of Scholars and Young Scholars have been placed in selective middle schools and high schools with enough financial aid to allow them to matriculate, attending schools in New Jersey and 13 additional states across the country. Enrolling students will receive more than $5 million from these partner institutions.

“Congratulations to our Scholars and Young Scholars in the Class of 2018!” says John F. Castano, Executive Director of NJ SEEDS. “I am proud of all that these talented students have accomplished in the past 14 months with SEEDS. Not only did they attend two summer sessions and class each Saturday during the school year with us, but they maintained high grades in their home schools and continued with all of their extracurricular activities and leadership positions. They are dedicated to their educations and to ensuring that they are making the most of the opportunities now accessible to them because of their time with SEEDS.”

More than 600 family members, friends, faculty and SEEDS supporters attended the commencement at Summit High School to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2018 on Saturday, August 4, 2018.

Graduates and guests heard from keynote speaker and SEEDS alum Mel Sarkor-Clinton (SEEDS ’97, Seton Hall Preparatory School ’01, Pratt Institute ’06, Architect and Founder of Gesture Ink Architecture), as well as Idaliza Perez (Scholars ’18, Princeton Day School ’22) and Abdiel Perde (Young Scholars ’18, Delbarton School ’24).

Special awards were presented to members of the Scholars and Young Scholars Programs and graduation certificates were awarded. The following Scholars and Young Scholars received special awards at the ceremony:

  • Sonal Bhatia (Scholars ’18, St. Andrew’s School ’22) 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.
  • Sanaa Desper (Scholars ’18, Miss Hall’s School ’22) and Michelle O’Connor (Scholars ’18, Western Reserve Academy ’22) were the recipients of The Angela Shankar Foundation Awards, which are presented to students with a strong community focus
  • Kassy Patino (Young Scholars ’18, Morristown-Beard School ’25) was the recipient of the Cavalier Scholarship, which helps to underwrite tuition at independent schools for high-achieving students. The scholarship is generously awarded by the F&P DeRosa Memorial Fund.
  • Idaliza Perez (Scholars ’18, Princeton Day School ’22) 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.
  • Nataly Ruiz (Young Scholars ’18, The Pingry School ’25) was named the Edward & Barbara Becker Scholar for her outstanding academic achievement and exemplary work while in the Young Scholars Program.
  • Goncalo Soares (Young Scholars ’18, Peck School ’24) was named the Amy Ziebarth Scholar for his passion for social justice and strong commitment to SEEDS.
  • Richard Zhou (Scholars ’18, Lawrenceville School ’22) was named the Blair MacInnes Scholar for his outstanding academic achievement and dedication to education while enrolled in the New Jersey SEEDS Scholars Program

Congratulations Young Scholars Class of 2018!
Karla Aouga: Peck School
Jacob Bernui: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Hanzalah Bhatti: Morristown-Beard School
Avene Bracey-Bradley: Steven’s Cooperative School
Emani Darko: Morristown-Beard School
Oluwatoni Ebunlomo: Rectory School
Alexandra Hernandez: Far Brook School
Zyriq May: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Jastin Molina: Chatham Day School
Ndubuisi Okeh: Far Brook School
Oluwatitofunmi Oshuntolu: Chatham Day School
Kassy Patino: Morristown-Beard School
Abdiel Perde: Delbarton School
Cynthia Perez: Fay School
Dakauri Pinckney: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Jennifer Polynice: Steven’s Cooperative School
Madisyn Rivera: Chatham Day School
Nataly Ruiz: Pingry School
Jared Salahuddin, Jr.: Steven’s Cooperative School
Amparito Sanchez: Peck School
Camille Sergenton :  Morristown-Beard School
Dennisha Smith-Davis: All Saints Episcopal Day School
Goncalo Soares: Peck School
Isaac Tagoe: Montclair Kimberley Academy
Jaidon Walls: Far Brook School

Congratulations Scholars Class of 2018!
Akosua Abrokwa: Darrow School
Olaa Ahmed: George School
Tahmid Ahmed: Church Farm School
Blessing Ajayi: St. Paul’s School
Ta’Miyah Alexander: Episcopal High School
Kayla Almonte: Concord Academy
Genesis Atienza: Elizabeth High School – Frank J. Cicarell Academy
Heiner Badilla Sanchez: Trinity-Pawling School
Isabella Barco: West Nottingham Academy
Anthony Bastardo-Castro: Northfield Mount Hermon
Archer Benedict: Blair Academy
Ellery Benedict: Trinity Hall
Sonal Bhatia: St. Andrew’s School (Delaware)
Jimari Brea: Cambridge School of Weston
Zachary Brzosko: Wardlaw-Hartridge School
Kelly Cabrera: Salem Academy
Ashley Canela: Technology High School
Valeria Chavez: Cambridge School of Weston
Zharah Colocho: Union County Vocational Technical School
Laila Cook: Morristown-Beard School
Kelcie Dawkins: Saddle River Day School
Kravon Dawkins: Saddle River Day School
Amy Del Cid: Brooks School
Sanaa Desper: Miss Hall’s School
Antar Dey: Phillips Exeter Academy
Ali Elmasry: Newark Academy
Arissa Emile: Cambridge School of Weston
Precious Esielem: Millbrook School
Stephanie Fernandez: Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School
Abdul Razak Ganiyu: Hudson Catholic School
Monique Garcia: Mercersburg Academy
Mark Georges: Passaic County Technical Institute
Destiny Gonzales: Christchurch School
Jenna Gonzalez: Hudson School
Abdulrehman Haider: St. Peter’s Preparatory School
Ashiyah Hall: Pomfret School
Ravyn Hamer: Concord Academy
Mahmoud Hassaneen: Montclair Kimberley Academy
Dwayne Hinds, Jr.: St. Mark’s School
Xin Huang: Wardlaw-Hartridge School
Shakira Hunt: Buxton School
Arifa Hussain: Passaic County Technical Institute
Erick Iraheta: Westtown School
Marisol Jackson: Long Branch High School
JaMara Jean: Westover School
Maysa Johnson: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Jessica Jose-Navarrete: Gill St. Bernard’s School
Tharaly Joseph: St. George’s School
Lawrence Langan: Thacher School
Emma Lee: Tabor Academy
Rosnel Leyva-Cortes: Deerfield Academy
Selena Liu: Stuart Country Day School
Amir Ludena: Episcopal High School
Emily Mae Mae Murtha: Phillips Academy – Andover
Isabela Maldonado: Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child
Ashley Mejia: Bergen County Technical Schools
Billy Meneses: Hotchkiss School
Nicole Moncada: The Pingry School
Delany Monroy: Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child
Shihab Moral: Concord Academy
Tanaya Muslim: Bound Brook High School
Thomas Naem: Cate School
Samuel Obeng, Jr.: Westminster School
Michelle O’Connor: Western Reserve Academy
Michael Okutoro: Girard College
Mayowa Oyediran: Seton Hall Preparatory School
Daisy Paredes: Linden Hall
Karla Perdomo: Kent Place School
Idaliza Perez: Princeton Day School
Karlens Pierre: Seton Hall Preparatory School
Maria Portillo: Master’s School
Vanessa Restrepo: Hackley School
Daniella Reyes: Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS)
Isabel Romero-Avila: Ranney School
Kimon Rutherford-Holmes: George School
Armaan Singh: Wardlaw-Hartridge
Angela Sosa: St. Timothy’s School
Jawanza Stuart: Darrow School
Yandiel Surillo: Girard College
Salma Talukdar: Westover School
Karianna Tavarez: Linsly School
Matthew Tavarez: Mercersburg Academy
Joshua Tenesaca: Xavier High School
Olivia Thompson: Blair Academy
Fadila Traore: Cambridge School of Weston
Jonathan Travis: Darrow School
Cagla Tunca: Dana Hall School
Steven Twist: Kiski School
Janessa Vargas: Phillips Exeter Academy
Mackenzie Wicks: Hun School of Princeton
Tre Elijah Williams: Governor’s Academy
Zaki Williams: St. Mark’s School
Richard Zhou: Lawrenceville School

High-resolution photos are also available for publication.

For more than 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 2,500 scholars have graduated from its programs. For more information, visit