Eighty middle and high school students from Somerset and Hunterdon counties were honored for their achievements at the 25th Annual Paul Robeson Youth Achievement Awards Reception, held March 24 at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in Branchburg.
The evening featured a keynote address by motivational speaker Nashad L. Warfield, a native of Plainfield.
The National Council of Negro Women and RVCC initiated the Paul Robeson Youth Achievement Awards program in 1990 to pay tribute to the outstanding attainments of students in the two counties. The awards are named in honor of Paul Robeson, a Princeton native who grew up in Somerville and graduated from Somerville High School and Rutgers University. The awards, sponsored by the Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Social Justice at RVCC, are given in four areas in which Robeson excelled: scholarship, the arts, community service and athletics. In addition, special “Renaissance Scholars” awards are given to students who excel in a number of disciplines.
The 80 students were nominated for awards by their guidance counselors, teachers and administrators. A special committee of RVCC faculty and administrators selected the award recipients.
The following middle school students received special recognition:
Nya Venson, Warren Middle School
Amaya Adetiba, Readington Middle School
Chase Donovan Jones, Warren Middle School
Jordyn Wright, Franklin Middle School
Noah Slade Joseph, Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School
Nia Abdullah, Franklin Middle School
Serena Jackson, Franklin Middle School
Aleah K. Spruell, Warren Middle School
Troi Ford, North Plainfield Middle School
Monet Murray, Franklin Middle School
The following high school students received special recognition:
Cassidy Gabriel, Hunterdon Central Regional High School
Oiseozoje Ohiwerei, Franklin High School
Aamira Muse, Franklin High School
Devyn Spruell, Watchung Hills Regional High School
Dimitri Henry, Hunterdon Central Regional High School
Megan Hill Glover, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School
Brenda Okereke, North Plainfield High School
Jada Edwards, Franklin High School
Jonathan Martin, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School
Sydney Menzies, Immaculata High School
Paul Robeson, son of an escaped slave, rose from humble beginnings to become a superior athlete, scholar, orator and linguist and a star in theater, film and on the concert stage. His performances in The Emperor Jones, Show Boat and Othello remain theatrical landmarks. Robeson also was an outspoken and controversial advocate of civil rights for African-Americans and an international humanitarian. In the 1950s, during the McCarthy era, he was persecuted for his political ideas and prevented from working. His passport was revoked for eight years because the US government considered his activities in the 1930s and '40s treasonable. Throughout Robeson’s career, he remained convinced that “art can bridge the gulf between white and black races.” Robeson died in Philadelphia in 1976 at the age of 77.
Nashad L. Warfield has worked for such top organizations as Procter & Gamble and BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine. As a professional motivational speaker and trainer for over 15 years, Warfield has traveled the country sharing the principles of academic and life success with high school and college students. His dynamic, high-energy presentations have reached more than 750,000 students over the past decade. Warfield has been a frequent guest speaker at RVCC, presenting at such programs as the College’s annual Convocation and the Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) College and Transfer Fair.
The Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Social Justice was founded in 1999 to preserve Paul Robeson’s legacy in the area where he came of age as an artist, athlete, orator, and scholar. The Institute envisions a global community of diverse cultures that embodies, through attitudes and behaviors, Paul Robeson’s ideals, beliefs, values, and vision for a world of justice and peace.
The Paul Robeson Resource Room, located in RVCC’s Evelyn S. Field Library, is an information center for Robeson’s national and worldwide activities. Established in 2003, the Resource Room serves as a repository for educational materials, historical records and memorabilia of Robeson’s Somerville years and the worldwide accomplishments of people of African-American descent.
Raritan Valley Community College’s main campus is located at 118 Lamington Road in Branchburg, NJ. Serving Somerset and Hunterdon County residents for close to 50 years, RVCC is an educational and cultural center that is nationally recognized for its innovative programming, service to the community and environmental leadership. The College offers more than 90 associate degrees and certificates, as well as career training, professional development and personal enrichment courses. The College also has a performing arts center and planetarium.