In embodying the true spirit of volunteerism, those who serve are not typically looking for recognition.
Of course, when that recognition comes in the form of a scholarship to offset college costs, those volunteers may not be looking for it, but they certainly appreciate it.
Awarded as $1,000 scholarships to two students from each of the 21 high schools across Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties each year, law firm Hoffman DiMuzio has allocated close to a half million dollars to its Gift of the Heart Community Scholarship Foundation since its 2014 inception. Partners Joseph J. Hoffman Jr. and Kenneth A. DiMuzio Sr. started the scholarship to shine light on students who serve.
“We decided that in an age where success was increasingly measured by status and money, that we try, at least in some small way, to reaffirm the importance of defining success in terms of services to others,” Hoffman said.
“We believed by formally acknowledging and rewarding those students who have volunteered their time and talent to the service of others that it would encourage other students to emulate them.”
This year’s Clearview Regional High School Gift of the Heart Community Scholarship recipients are seniors Aderonke Adejare and James “Jimmy” Sharkey.
School counselor Lisa Marandola delivered the good news to Adejare and Sharkey earlier this calendar year. She is glad to see local businesses such as Hoffman DiMuzio supporting the students.
“I think it’s wonderful that businesses are stepping up to fund these scholarships and awards,” Marandola said.
Adejare described herself as being “ecstatic” when finding out she received the scholarship.
“It’s very nice to see the things you do are being recognized,” she said. “It’s $1,000, another way to help pay for college. Having that definitely helps.”
The Mantua resident is president of Clearview’s Gay-Straight Alliance and co-president of the Mental Health Awareness Club. Both groups, Adejare said, do a lot of advocacy throughout the school, from hosting the national Day of Silence, when LGBTQ+ students and allies take a vow of silence to protest harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ+ youth, to spreading the mental health club’s #breakthestigma motto to normalize mental health awareness and conversation.
This past year, Adejare also took part in the year-long Citizens University Youth Collaboratory, a program empowering young civic leaders from across the country, teaching them more about civics and ways to get more involved in their communities.
“The Youth Collaboratory was really an amazing thing for me,” Adejare said, noting participants had the opportunity to travel to Chicago, Malibu, California, and Washington, D.C., as well as meet civic leaders from around the country.
Part of the program was to have an independent “power project” in your own community, and Adejare chose to bring a Culture Fair to Clearview. After proposing the fair to the principal, Adejare teamed up with the Student Coalition to host the event. Countless people were involved, she said, and the inaugural fair was held in June 2019 with 14 countries represented, including Nigeria, from which Adejare’s own family hails.
“This is a very homogenic area … I think it can do some good to try to bring down stereotypes and misconceptions about different cultures by at least having a day to show off those cultures and recognize their beauty,” Adejare said.
Sharkey was also grateful for the scholarship and recognition.
“Every single scholarship you get is a little weight off your shoulders,” the Mullica Hill resident said.
Sharkey has served throughout his life, volunteering in a variety of capacities, including during middle school with TopSports, an inclusive sports program for children with special needs, and every holiday season with Operation Christmas Child through Trinity United Methodist Church, gathering and filling shoe boxes with toys and essentials to bring joy to children worldwide.
“A lot of these kids don’t have families, don’t have a good Christmas,” Sharkey said, noting filling a shoebox is a simple, relatively inexpensive task anyone can take on. “It’s really a good way to get the community involved.”
He hopes to continue his mindset of service by serving his country. Already accepted into the Rutgers University honors program and the University of Maryland, Sharkey is waiting to hear from his first choice — the U.S. Naval Academy.
With several relatives who have served or are currently serving, Sharkey has wanted to join the service since he was in elementary school.
“People who go there, they always end up on the right track in life,” Sharkey said. “I want to be able to serve in some way, and I think that’s the best way possible.”
Helping others was never really a question for Sharkey.
“It’s important to ground yourself and count your blessings, know what advantages you have in life,” Sharkey said. “Most people have the opportunity to serve, but not a lot of people take advantage of that opportunity.”