Former NBA Star Visits School To Promote Public Service

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ELIZABETH-Former NBA star Darryl Dawkins recently visited Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth to help the school initiate the “Students in Action” program, a youth service initiative of the “Jefferson Awards for Public Service”. The former hoops standout presented the school’s first “Unsung Hero Award” to sophomore Barbara Borges of Elizabeth, for her “quiet”, yet “extraordinary” service to community members in need.

Benedictine Academy, an all-female Catholic college prep high school, has been honored to be selected as an official “Jefferson Awards Service Leadership School”, one of only twenty-five leadership high schools from New Jersey. The Academy is the first of any New Jersey school to join “Students in Action”. The twenty-five “Jefferson Awards Service Leadership Schools” are serving as role models for other schools around the state – and eventually the country- to emulate.

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Each school’s faculty leadership and student volunteers are helping pass the tradition of voluntary service to future generations, while promoting a culture of volunteerism, youth ethics and leadership. “Jefferson Awards for Public Service” were created in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, to create a Nobel Prize for public and community service in America.

During the ceremony held on Nov. 12 at Benedictine Academy, in addition to the presentation of the “Unsung Hero Award”, seventeen student leaders were inducted as members of the school’s “Student Leadership Team”. The purpose of the “Unsung Hero Award” is to encourage students in volunteering and community service. At Benedictine Academy, it was decided that the “Students in Action” branch would honor an “Unsung Hero” every month – a student who was making a notable difference in the school or community – to remind the girls that the works they do, do not go unnoticed.

Borges, for example, formed a group this year called “Erica’s Bracelets”, dedicated to making bracelets for people with cancer. The student is helping to heal hearts one bracelet at a time. So far she and her friends have made about forty bracelets. When Borges received her award, she spoke about how important it is to offer support to not just one group, but to everyone and anyone dealing with any kind of cancer. The congratulations and applause from the audience was warm and sincere. All were glad to see this “Unsung Hero” praised, as well as the nominees that smiled and cheered on both sides of her.

Dawkins, nicknamed “The Chocolate Thunder”, in his playing days with the Nets and the Sixers, presented the award to Borges and spoke at the ceremony about volunteerism, praising the girls and Benedictine Academy for their hard work and dedication. “So many people leave their hometowns, become successful, and never come back,” he commented, “but the good ones come back, and make it better for other people.”

Currently the head men’s basketball coach at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, Pa., Dawkins told the audience at BA that he incorporates community service into his program requirements. He congratulated the Academy for making community service a priority.

The mission of the “Jefferson Awards” is to honor Americans who have performed outstanding public service and inspire others to follow their example. Students at Benedictine Academy, recognized for its community outreach efforts over the years, noted that they will “never stop volunteering”. “Helping people makes us feel good,” said junior Jen Abbondante of Union, “Even if we do service in small ways, I know every hand makes a difference.”


Former NBA star Darryl Dawkins (left) visited Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth recently to help the school initiate the “Students in Action” program”, a youth service initiative of the “Jefferson Awards for Public Service”. The former hoops standout presented the school’s first “Unsung Hero Award” to sophomore Barbara Borges of Elizabeth, for her “quiet”, yet “extraordinary” service to community members in need.


During the ceremony held on Nov. 12 at Benedictine Academy, in addition to the presentation of the “Unsung Hero Award”, seventeen student leaders were inducted as members of the school’s “Student Leadership Team”. They will be attending a “Student in Action” leadership Conference in December. Their goal is to act as role models and inspire their peers to help make the world a better place. Pictured are student leaders- top row, (l-r): Benedictine Academy Campus Minister Linda Michalski, students Andrea Mendoza and Gabrielle Rodriguez, and, Karen Hatcher, Director of the “Students in Action” program. Bottom Row,(l-r): Benedictine Academy students Samantha Herrejon, Alicia Onacki, Ariana Taveras, Chelsea Odufu, Amanda Souza, Geraline Arroyo, Angelin Thevarajah, Chisom Emeana, Samantha Frejeuste, Sara Pereira, Kelly Amorim, Ludmilla Perez and Ramira Mayse.


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