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April 24, 2015






(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held its 12th Annual “Essex County Celebrates Youth” program on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at the Hall of Records.  This happy and heartwarming event is held each year to acknowledge and encourage outstanding young people throughout the County who have accomplished and contributed so much at a young age, and proven themselves to be role models for their peers.


This year’s honorees were: Taj Atkinson, a senior at Newark’s Central H. S.; Emmanuel Christian, a junior at Newark’s Central H. S.; Isaiah Corchado of Newark, a junior at Seton Hall Prep; Danielson Joseph, a senior at Irvington H. S.; Lowell Kelly-Gamble, a junior at Bloomfield H. S.; Andrea Romero, a freshman at Belleville H. S.; Jack Schreiber of Livingston, a 6th grade student at Mount Pleasant Middle School; Kristin Towkaniuk, a senior at Newark’s Science Park H. S.; and Ela Urbina, a junior at Orange H. S.


Pictured above are the honorees: (front row, l. to r.) Danielson Joseph of Irvington, Jack Schreiber of Livingston, Kristin Towkaniuk of Newark, and Ela Urbino of Orange; (2nd row, l. to r.) Lowell Kelly-Gamble of Bloomfield, Andrea Romero of Belleville and Isaiah Corchado of Newark; and (back row, l. to r.) Emmanuel Christian and Taj Atkinson of Newark.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON


Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake welcomed everyone to the event by crediting her District 3 Freeholder predecessor, former Freeholder Carol Clark, “for initiating this program 12 years ago which, over the succeeding years, has become one of the Board’s finest traditions.”  She explained, “This is a program all about celebrating young people who are doing good things.  It is all about recognizing their accomplishments, talents, intelligence, contributions to their communities, and their courage to stand up for what they believe in, and encouraging them to succeed in everything they set their minds to.”


District 1 Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla of Newark (left) presented the Board’s commendation to his honoree, Taj Atkinson, a senior at Newark’s Central H.S. of Newark.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON                        

Taj Atkinson
is an 18-year old senior at Newark’s Central High School where he has a G.P.A. of 3.5, is ranked #7 in his graduating class, and active in school affairs.  He is President of the social group, P.U.R.E. (Peace Unity Respect Equality), a member of the Student Council, Drama Team and Yearbook Committee, and Secretary of the Environmental Studies Academy.  He is also the founder of the movement “Black Lives Matter”, which emphasizes self-worth and knowledge, and helped launch a bow tie tradition to reduce negative stereotypes.  He also helped organize and lead hundreds of his fellow students to strengthen relationships and promote healthier communication between law enforcement and young men in his community to ensure non-violent solutions and overall peace.  In recognition of his leadership qualities and abilities, Taj was selected by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to be Newark’s first and only Youth Ambassador for President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative, and was selected to speak at the White House before mayors, tribal leaders, elected officials and community leaders, and to introduce U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder.  Taj is the son of his proud mother, Annie Atkinson, and the brother of Sharon and Jacqueline.


“Before I get started, I want to say that if not for the educators and the active parents in the room tonight, these outstanding young men and women we are honoring wouldn’t be here today, so I want to give all of you a round of applause.”  He went on to introduce his honoree as “a real leader among his peers, whose leadership skills brought him all the way to the White House.”  “Taj, you are an outstanding young man and clearly someone we will be hearing from in the future, and I look forward to it.”


 “I am honored to be here”, said Atkinson, “and I want to begin by thanking all of those who have supported me with their love and guidance during this journey”, specifically mentioning his mom, his former principal and now-Mayor Baraka, his current principal, Sharnee Brown, members of My Brother’s Keeper, and his speech and dramatics teacher at Central H. S..  “I’d like to finish with the adage, ‘Proper Planning Prevents Poor Production’, because without the foundation provided by these people in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to better myself, tackle obstacles in my life, and in turn tackle obstacles in my community.”


Emmanuel Christian of Newark received his commendation from Freeholder President Britnee N. Timberlake of East Orange during the Board’s 12th Annual Celebration of Youth.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON


Emmanuel Christian, 17 years old, attended Newark’s Clinton Avenue, Hawthorne Avenue, Madison Avenue and Avon Avenue schools, and Louisa A. Spencer School, where he was Salutatorian of his 8th Grade class and played basketball.  Currently, he is a junior at Central High School where he is an Honor Student with a G.P.A. of 3.8, is in the Engineering Academy and intends to attend college, hopefully at the University of Michigan, where he plans to major in Computer Engineering and minor in Entrepreneuring.  In addition to being an outstanding student, Emmanuel is an excellent athlete; he has played on Central’s Football Team for the last three years and earned 1st Team Defensive All-Conference Honors this past season.  Outside of school, he is a member of Males Empowering Neighborhoods (M.E.N.), an academic enrichment and social development program for young men ages 14-17, which works to beautify neighborhoods, engage with and educate citizens, and provide community service opportunities for local youth.  He is also a member of the M.E.N. Step Team.  Emmanuel is the son of his proud parents, Sandra Christian and Kevin Rennie, and the brother of Ny-sheer.


“Emmanuel, I am so proud of you and the work you have done in your school and in your community”, said Freeholder President Timberlake, who also described M.E.N., which was formed in her living room back in December of 2012, to provide male role models for young at-risk males in urban communities.


“Thank you for honoring me tonight, and thank you to everyone who is a part of M.E.N. and the Partnerships Community Development Corporation.”


Freeholder Rufus I. Johnson of Newark presented the Board’s commendation to Seton Hall Prep junior Isaiah Corchado of Newark during the Celebration of Youth event held at the Hall of Records in Newark.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON


Isaiah Corchado, 17 years old, resides in Newark and is currently a junior at Seton Hall Prep where he has a 3.2 G.P.A. and has enjoyed many academic achievements, including: he attended the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in 2010, an extensive summer education program held at Moravian College that promoted intellectual and social growth, geared toward gifted students in the top 1% of their age group; he was a “People to People” Ambassador in 2011, a summer program for student leaders, with which he traveled to France, Italy and Greece to learn about the culture and history of those countries; he attended the 2012 “Rising Scholars” summer program at Lawrenceville High School to assist students’ transitions from middle school to high school, while also engaging them academically and teaching them leadership skills; and last year, he became a member of the National Society of High School Scholars.  Isaiah is a member of the Seton Hall Prep Track & Field Team and also enjoys baseball and basketball.  He is also a member of the Future Lawyers and Future Business Leaders clubs, the local chapter of the NAACP, and volunteers at the Robert Treat Academy Charter School, his alma mater, as a tutor, mentor and assistant to the basketball coach.  Isaiah is the son of his proud parents, Hector and Lucesita, and the brother of Hector, Jr., and Amanda.


“I have known Isaiah Corchado’s parents, Hector and Lucy, for many, many years”, said Freeholder Johnson, “so as you can imagine, I have had the pleasure of watching Isaiah grow up into the outstanding young man you see today, and I know, without any doubt, that he will continue to evolve into an exceptional adult who will accomplish and contribute great things in the future.”  He added, “Isaiah, from a personal standpoint, like my two wonderful daughters, you have made me very, very proud, and I want you to know how much I appreciate you.”


“I want to thank Freeholder Rufus Johnson, a good friend, and the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for acknowledging me today as an outstanding young person”, said Corchado.  “I also want to thank my parents and family for encouraging me and inspiring me to do my very best in everything I have achieved.”  He went on to say, “And in the future, I intend to continue growing and learning to someday become a role model to young people, as my parents and many of you sitting in this room have been to me.”


Irvington H. S. senior Danielson Joseph received his commendation from Freeholder Lebby C. Jones of Irvington.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON


Danielson Joseph is an 18-year old senior at Irvington High School where he is ranked #1 in his class with a G.P.A. of 4.159.  He is the Recycling Team Leader of the Eco-Novus Club, which aims to make the local and global environment cleaner by recycling paper and attempting to implement a bottle and can recycling program; performs improvisational comedy as an Improv 101 player; and as a member of the Varsity Bowling Team, he bowled a high game of 174 and a high series of 447.  He is also a member of the Library Council Club, with whom he catalogued and stored books; won a “Young Entrepreneur” certificate for being one of the highest candy sale fundraisers; is a member of the Sigma Beta Club, which is committed to brotherhood, scholarship and service; and a member of the State Champion Irvington High School Consumer Bowl Team, who answered the game-winning question to win the 2013 championship.  Outside of school he is a member of the 4-H Club; a Young Researcher for the American Chemical Society NJ SEEDS Program; spent his summer doing research under a physics mentor; and  won 1st Place at the Regional Poster Session.  Danielson is the son of his proud parents, Meritha Sylvain and Daniel Joseph, and plans to attend college next year to study Engineering.


“It is a pleasure and an honor to bring forward a young man from Irvington”, said Freeholder Jones.  “Of all the boys and girls in the high school, he must be special, because his principal recommended that he be honored tonight.”  She went on to say, “Danielson is #1 in his class and has a GPA of 4.159, and it just doesn’t get any better than that.  Danielson, you are an outstanding young man, a fine example of


the great education available to Irvington H. S. students, and I am delighted to present you with this well-deserved commendation from the Board of Freeholders.”


“I want to thank the people who got me here, like my family members, my mother and my father, teachers like Mr. Cox and Mr. Romano, my principal Ms. Boone-Gibbs and Superintendent Dr. Neely Hackett”, said Joseph, “and of course Ms. Lebby Jones and the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for having an event like this in the first place, to remind students in Essex County that they’re doing a good job and to acknowledge them.”


District 5 Freeholder Cynthia D. Toro of Bloomfield honored Bloomfield H. S. junior Lowell Kelly-Gamble during the Board’s April 22nd event at the Hall of Records in Newark.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON


Lowell Kelly-Gamble is a 16-year old junior and outstanding student-athlete at Bloomfield H. S. where he earned High Honors and Honor Roll, and received the school’s “Scholar Athlete Award” for academic excellence the last 2 years.  He also received six Praise Referral Awards, and the “Student of the Month” and “Character with Character” awards in 2013-14.  He performed community service projects with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Community Census Program, teaches Sunday school lessons to younger children at Shiloh Baptist Church, and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  As a member of the BHS Football Team, he was recognized by NJ.com as one of the top sophomore football players in Essex County and received Super Essex Conference All-Conference Honorable Mention last season.  A 3-year starter on the Track & Field Team in the Shot Put, he finished 1st in the Essex County Championships in 2013 and 2014; 1st in the freshman and sophomore divisions at the Essex County Relays in 2013 and 2014; and was named to the 2014 All-Conference 2nd Team.  Last summer he competed in Junior Olympics competitions placing 3rd at the USATF NJ Association Junior Olympic Championships, 3rd at the USATF Region 2 Championships, and finished 22nd overall in the Boys 15-16 Division at the USA Track and Field Jr. Olympic Nationals.  This year he finished 4th in the NJSIAA Group 4 Sectionals and 8th at the Group 4 Championships.  Lowell is interested in majoring in Agricultural Business Management when he attends college, and is the son of his proud parents, Tom and

Linda Gamble.


“Lowell, you are truly an outstanding young man who excels at everything you do”, said Freeholder Toro, “whether it be in academics, sports or volunteering in your community.”  She added, “You’ve made your parents, Tom and Linda, very proud, and I am delighted to present you with this commendation from the Freeholder Board in recognition of all your accomplishments, a list that will continue to grow in the many years ahead.”


Kelly-Gamble thanked Freeholder Toro for presenting him with the award, as well as his parents, and offered words of advice to his fellow honorees, saying, “It’s about how bad do you want it, academically and athletically… you just have to push, and if you do, your success will last forever.”



Belleville H. S. freshman Andrea Romero receives her commendation from District 5 Freeholder Cynthia D. Toro during the Board’s 12th Annual Celebration of Youth.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

Andrea Romero
is a 15-year old freshman Honor student at Belleville High School where she has received two “Student of the Month” awards, a “Student of the Week” award for History class, attended the Gifted and Talented Program for three years, and achieved Honor Roll status 33 times throughout her school years.  She is also a member of the high school’s Japan Society and was recently selected as one of only ten students nationwide to be formally accepted into the TOMODACHI Japan Society Junior Fellows Leadership Program and awarded a full scholarship to participate in a culturally-immersive learning and leadership experience, which will take place primarily in Japan this summer.  She also enjoys both reading and writing novels, musical theatre, cultural and philosophical studies, spending time with her family, and sprinting for the Track & Field Team.  Her writing skills are exceptional and she aspires to one day be an internationally-acclaimed author of fiction while also broadening her studies in the field of international relations.  Andrea is the daughter of her proud parents, Alfredo and Sonia Romero, and the sister of Alfredo and Jennifer.


“Andrea is probably the only person in the room tonight who speaks Japanese”, said Freeholder Toro, who spoke of Romero’s acceptance into the Japan Society’s Junior Fellows Leadership Program.  “I am very proud of all you have accomplished in life thus far, and it is an honor for me to present you with this well-deserved commendation from the Freeholder Board.”


“Good evening!  I would like to thank so many people who have brought me here and mentored me throughout the entire year”, said Romero, as she mentioned her teachers, principal, friends, and especially her family, “who have empowered me with love to do everything I do.”



Freeholder Patricia Sebold of Livingston presented the Board’s commendation to her grandson, Jack Schreiber, a 12-year old 6th grade student at Livingston’s Mount Pleasant Middle School.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

Jack Schreiber
is a 12-year old 6th grade student at Livingston’s Mount Pleasant Middle School, and previously attended Collins Elementary School where he was a Tri-President of the student body.  He is a High Honor Roll student at Mount Pleasant Middle School where he was the recipient of the Puma Pride Award for his efforts to give back to the community.  In addition to being socially conscious and academically accomplished, Jack is also an excellent athlete.  He plays football with the Livingston Junior Lancers Team that won back-to-back Super Bowl Championships in the B Division of the West Essex Junior Football League and was honored by the Livingston Municipal Council both years.  He also plays basketball on the 6th Grade Traveling Team sponsored by the Livingston Recreation Department which reached the finals of the Suburban Recreation Basketball League.  Jack is the son of his proud parents, Risa and Bruce Schreiber, and the brother of Jonny and Nikki.


“I am truly delighted to make my presentation to the youngest of this year’s honorees, Jack Schreiber, from my hometown of Livingston”, said Freeholder Sebold.  “Jack is a wonderful, wonderful young man who has brought so much joy and pride to his parents, Risa and Bruce, to his brother and sister, Jonny and Nikki, and especially to his incredibly proud grandmother… me!”  She went on to say, “Jack, I can’t wait to see what you will do next in your young life and all that you will accomplish, and I hope you

know that we will be there to support and applaud you each step of the way.”


 “I’m so proud to be honored tonight”, said Schreiber, “and I’d like to thank my grandmother, Freeholder Pat Sebold, and the entire freeholder board for giving me this recognition.”  He added, “I work very hard in school to do well and get excellent grades, and work hard to do well in all the sports I play for Livingston.  Receiving this award makes me feel very proud.  Thank you so much.”


Kristin Towkaniuk, a senior at Newark’s Science Park H. S., was honored by District 2 Freeholder Wayne L. Richardson of Newark during the Board’s April 22nd event.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

Kristin Towkaniuk
is an 18-year old senior at Newark’s Science Park High School where she has been involved in the Jersey Urban Debate League for four years, is currently serving her second term as President of the Newark Students Union (NSU), heads the Education Committee of the City of Newark’s Youth Council, is a member of her school’s Student Council, the Student Leadership Organization, and is heavily involved in the civic life of her community. Through the Debate Team she “found her voice” and learned about the NSU where she uses her voice to empower others to stand up for their educational rights, having learned from national leaders on issues such as immigration, home foreclosure, racial justice, and gender and marriage equality.  She helped organize numerous events and demonstrations in Newark, including student walkouts and shutdowns, the 2013 mayoral forum, and the occupation of Superintendent Cami Anderson’s office this past March, and attended conferences locally and in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.  Kristin believes in a quality education for all students, faithfully attends school board meetings, and has been honored by the People’s Organization for Progress and the Newark Teacher’s Association.  She expects to pursue her passion for political activism the rest of her life, as well as a career as a secondary school educator.  Kristin is the daughter of her proud mother, Heather Stewart, and the sister of David and Hannah.


“Kristin, as they say, your reputation precedes you”, said Freeholder Richardson, “and in your case, that is a very good thing!” as he explained having heard so much about her from his wife, Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, a current member and former President of the Newark Board of Education.  “Kristin has put her voice to work to demand the highest quality education possible for Newark’s students and to ensure their rights in a social and political student movement reminiscent of the ‘60’s”,

said Richardson, who spoke of her having organized and participated in a long list of demonstrations, sit-ins, walk-outs, shut-downs and occupations, “all in the name of ensuring students’ educational rights”.  He concluded by saying, “It is a real honor to recognize you this evening for standing up for your fellow students, and I hope tonight’s recognition will encourage you to continue your fight for justice.” 


“It is an honor to be here, and I want to thank Freeholder Richardson and the entire Board of Freeholders, my family and everyone who has helped me get here, and that means the community”, said Towkaniuk.  “I also want to congratulate all the other honorees who are doing amazing jobs as leaders and taking charge of their futures because we are not the future, we are the ‘now’.” 


Orange H. S. junior Ela Urbina was honored by Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill of Montclair during the Board’s Celebration of Youth held at the Hall of Records in Newark on April 22nd.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

Ela Urbina
is a 17-year old junior at Orange High School where she is an excellent student, has been on the Honor Roll her entire high school career, and achieved High Honor Roll status last year.  She is a member of the SEEDS Program, Captain of the Volleyball Team, runs track, plays softball, and has been a member of the stage crew for numerous productions.  She has also found time to be a student worker for the Orange Board of Education, where she performs many tasks among various responsibilities.  She fills her days with a wealth of activities, yet still finds time to enjoy reading in her spare time and to be active in her church, where she is President of the Youth Program and sings in the choir.  As far as her future is concerned, she is considering either continuing her education at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, or joining the National Guard, but aspires to eventually become an accountant due to her love of working with numbers.  Ela is the daughter of her proud mother, Lucia Rivas, and the sister of Stephanie and Jazmin.


“Ela, one of the great things that we have an opportunity to do as members of the Freeholder Board is to not only to recognize people we know very well”, said Freeholder Vice President Gill, “but also to reach out to communities and have them choose people who deserve to be recognized; your name was immediately brought up by many in your community, and you should be congratulated for that.”  He added, “You’ve made your mother and sisters very proud of you, and so are all of us on the Board.”


“I want to thank the Essex County Board of Freeholders for this honor”, said Urbina, “But it isn’t only my award… it’s a group award for the people who support me and have my back, and I want to celebrate this moment with those who have been essential to my success: my athletic director, coach, and of course my mother, the reason I work hard every day and the person who has raised me to be who I am.”


Marisa Budnick, a 17-year old junior at Wayne Valley H. S., performed “My Lifelong Love” during the Board’s Celebration of Youth.  She has been a Musical Theater major at NJPAC’s Young Artist Summer Intensive Program for the last two years.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON

Freeholder Vice President Gill concluded the program by paying tribute to the many teachers, former teachers and mentors among the Board members, as well as the teachers, principals, superintendents and coaches in the audience, remarking that “The last few years haven’t been easy on your profession, but when we see the great job you do reflected in the young people here tonight, we want you to know that there are elected officials and many leaders who have your back.”  He also complimented the honorees’ parents saying, “Your parents have provided me with a great road map for the kind of young people my wife and I would like our daughter and son to become, and for the supportive and nurturing parents we aspire to be.”  He concluded by saying, “You are nine outstanding young people, and we will leave here tonight confident that our future will be in very capable and caring hands.”


The program included a vocal performance by Marisa Budnick, a 17-year old junior at Wayne Valley H. S. and a Musical Theater major at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Young Artist Summer Intensive program (YASI) in Newark, as well as a performance by the Step Team representing the Newark Central H. S. chapter of Males Empowering Neighborhoods (M.E.N.).  Octavia Pope of Cornerstone Baptist Church in East Orange offered the opening and closing prayers, and the reception following the program was catered by the students in the Culinary Arts program at Essex County Vo-Tech’s North 13th Street School in Newark.


Members of the Step Team from the Central H. S. chapter of Males Empowering Neighborhoods (M.E.N.) exhilarated the audience during the Celebration of Youth program at the Hall of Records.  PHOTO BY GLEN FRIESON



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For Additional Information:

Gary Kroessig, Public Information

Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders

973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5696 (fax)



Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695