APHS Alum are Leading by Example

APHS Alumn Are Leading By Example
Posted on 05/17/2019

RosaWelcome to a classic case of paying it forward at its best. Thanks to Asbury Park High School (APHS) Alum James “Jim” Daley, Class of 1959, and cum laude alumnus of Ohio University, APHS students have access to an educational opportunity that can broaden their horizons a little to no cost to them.

“This is an opportunity that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be given,” said Rosa Avina, APHS Class of 2016 and current junior at Ohio University. “They are willing to do anything to help you to succeed.”

Avina returned to APHS last week as a member of Ohio University’s Cutler Scholar program to talk to members of the high school’s Dream Academy about the importance of setting high goals and never giving up. She was joined by Ohio University officials, Julie Mohney, Regional Recruitment Manager, and Margaux Cowden, Director of the Cutler Scholars Program, who stopped by to get a firsthand look at the potential recipients of Daley’s scholarship for June 2020.

“The ideal candidate is a student who can’t help but be involved. They have Intellectual curiosity,” said Cowden, who noted the merit scholarship is awarded every four years. Recipients must demonstrate community involvement, leadership taking initiative, and maintain a 3.0 GPA while in the program. Their reward: a $30K scholarship renewable for four years. “Lots of the students who come here are handpicked.”

ScholarAdditionally, selected scholars receive $14,000 in stipends over the course of four years to support educational experiences such as internships including international, public service, professional and outward bound leadership. The annual cost to attend the university for out of state students is $34,000 for room and board.

The relationship between APHS and Ohio University began nearly 15 years ago with the first student recipient, Dr. Kendra Michel, a member of APHS class of 2005.

For Deborah Sylvia, Director of School Counseling Services, it’s an exciting time to be at APHS. When the program first began maybe there were five who qualified, now there are 18.

“We attribute this to all the supports that have been put in place academically and the opportunity for them to participate in college level courses while in high school,” Sylvia said. “This has given them a chance to achieve, to rise up.”

Principal Kathy Baumgardner concurs.

“In the three years that I’ve been here, the academic growth that the students have made has been phenomenal. This is just an amazing accomplishment.”

Much of that growth has been as a result of the implementation of academies to include Dream, Engineering, Allied Health and Law & Public Safety. Additionally, the district co-introduced the College & Career Readiness Institute that motivates students to excel beyond Asbury Park. In the 2019-20 school, Superintendent Sancha K. Gray plans add a Performing Arts Academy into the mix.

high schoolAvina’s story is much like that of many APHS students. She immigrated to the United States from Mexico at age 3, living as an undocumented resident for 13 years. She became a permanent resident in 2016 just before she left to attend Ohio University.

“What I’ve learned from my story is you can’t quit. I knew if I quit it would be a bad example for my siblings and family,” said Avina, who is the eldest of four siblings, Carmen 19, Jonathan, 16, and Daisy 13, all of whom attend/attended Asbury Park Public Schools. “There is always someone looking up to you. They shouldn’t have to look at famous people. I want my siblings to aspire for something more.”

Her biggest adjustment was being nine hours away from her family. Now, the entire family takes a road trip to visit her twice a year and she comes home for the Christmas holiday.

“At first it was really hard because I missed my family, but my mom made it very clear that I wasn’t leaving until I graduated. She pushed me,” Avina said. “I am very glad I stayed. Now I know that I am here for a reason.”

To ease the transition, she joined several clubs that have helped her to create a family away from home. She’s now president of the Latino Student Union and her co-ed fraternity, Alpha Psi Lambda. Avina credits APHS with honing her leadership skills where she was a member of the National Honor Society and Yearbook Editor.

“These positions made me realize that I wanted to be in leadership. It was really my teachers who encouraged me, especially Ms. Brightman, Ms. DeMarsico and Mr. Grasso. Ms. McNeil, now retired librarian, had a big impact on my life.”

Avila, whose major is marketing with a minor in business analytics and Spanish, delights in sharing her story with her former peers in hopes that it will motivate them to step outside their comfort zones. Her ultimate goal is to own a marketing firm that specializes in promoting the Spanish-speaking market.

“I’m excited for the kids; they don’t understand yet” referring to the magnitude of the gift she has been given. “This experience has been life-changing because I never thought I’d be able to do all these things.”

Barbara Paskin, APHS guidance counselor since 2001, credits the district’s relationship with the Asbury Park High School Distinguished Alumni, including Daley, who continue to invest in current students.

“All of our students have done phenomenal and have gone on to excellent careers and the experiences are unbelievable,” Paskin said. “It would be great if all our kids were able to participate in such a program.”

Daley made his mark by embarking on a highly successful career with world-renowned accounting firm Price Waterhouse, rising to the position of Vice Chairman of International Operations. He later served has CFO and Executive Vice President of Electronic Data Systems before retiring in 2003. A member of the APHS Class of 2010 Distinguished Hall of Fame, Daley’s life quote is from Abraham Lincoln: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”


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