Tri-County Scholarship Fund Honors Four Outstanding Women at 7th Annual Women of Achievement Awards Luncheon
April 11, 2019
L to R: Tri-County co-chair, Joseph Gonnella, Honorees—Jessica Ortiz, Esq., Paula Mandell, Anneliese Seelaus Mitnick, Michele R. Neves; Tri-County President, Prudence Pigott, and Tri-County co-chair, Rebecca Levy, Esq.
Four outstanding women were honored at Tri-County Scholarship Fund’s 7th Annual Women of Achievement Luncheon held at the Canoe Brook Country Club on April 11th. Honored at the event were Paula Mandell, Senior VP and Area Executive for M&T Bank, Anneliese Seelaus Mitnick, CEO of R. Seelaus & Co., Inc., Michele R. Neves, Principal of Immaculate Conception High School-Montclair, and Jessica Ortiz, Esq., partner with the law firm MoloLamken LLP. While each of the honorees has an impressive record of achievement, their desire and willingness to empower others with opportunities for success caught the nominating committee’s attention. The honorees were selected by the Tri-County event committee co-chaired by Tri-County trustees, Joseph Gonnella, Chief Development Officer for Boys Scouts of America, Rebecca Levy, Esq., General Council for Summit Medical Group, Sally Glick, Principal and Chief Growth Strategist for SobelCo, and Tri-County Scholarship Fund president, Prudence Pigott.
Sally Glick with Yecenia Duran presiding over the Scholarship Auction
The event raised a record-breaking $140,000 for Tri-County’s Freedom Scholar program— a partnership between TCSF, schools and families —which provides scholarships to financially-disadvantaged high school students so that they are able to afford values-centered, high-performing private high schools. Tri-County also helps the students throughout high school with mentoring, tutoring, college prep courses and more. Due to the generosity of the Luncheon’s attendees and honorees, Tri-County will award a full 28 more one-year scholarships.
Some of our Tri-County Scholarship Recipients
All four women addressed a sold-out crowd of 300, including over two dozen of Tri-County’s high school scholarship recipients who heard the honorees’ messages of encouragement that they too can overcome obstacles and forge their own paths of success.
Anneliese Seelaus Mitnick of R. Seelaus & Co., Inc., having matriculated from Oak Knoll High School in Summit, NJ and then Princeton University, recognized the gift of an excellent education. Since taking the helm as CEO for the company in 2015, Seelaus-Mitnick has focused on making the firm mission-driven in helping to serve the community and in providing opportunities for women in finance.
Paula Mandell of M&T Bank, spoke of her rise from bank teller to Senior Vice President and Area Executive for the bank. In her career, Mandell was most fulfilled by helping others find their own path to success.
Jessica Ortiz, Esq., partner with the NY firm Mololamken LLP, spoke about her journey through the challenging environment of an inner city high school in upstate New York, and how this experience motivated and transformed her. Notably, Ortiz is one of a small percentage of Latina attorneys in the US and one of a still smaller percentage to become a partner at a major law firm.
Michele R. Neves, Principal at Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair, NJ has been a champion for financially-disadvantaged and inner city students throughout her 35+ years in education, much of it in Paterson, New Jersey. Neves, who has worked closely with the Tri-County organization throughout her career, paid tribute to her colleagues who have helped her foster a school environment that allows disadvantaged students to excel and reach their full potential. At Immaculate Conception, Neves has revitalized the school, nearly doubling enrollment in her tenure as Principal and increasing the participation of parents in the school’s success.
All of the honorees are passionate about Tri-County’s mission to provide K-12 scholarships to financially disadvantaged students to attend safe, values-based schools.
Tri-County Alumna Melissa Arca
Also addressing the crowd were Tri-County Alumna, Melissa Arca, and current Tri-County student, Yecenia Duran. Melissa Arca, who attended Paramus Catholic High School, will graduate in May with a degree in Biochemistry from St. Peters University and is in the process of applying to medical school. Yecenia Duran, a senior at Mary Help of Christian Academy in North Haledon has received a full scholarship to Felician University where she will pursue a nursing degree. Both young women cited a parent as their role model and hero, expressed gratitude for the generosity of Tri-County donors and look forward to a time when they will be in the position to pay it forward.
Tri-County student, Yecenia Duran
Tri-County Scholarship Fund was founded in 1981. Alarmed by the failing public school system and the mounting inequalities in educational choice for families in poorer communities, a group of New Jersey business leaders joined forces to create an organization that would provide scholarship assistance, based solely on financial need, for students to attend private K-12 schools. Since 1981, Tri-County has awarded over 32,000 scholarships, amounting to more than 28-million dollars. Families in the lowest income levels are able to choose safe educational opportunities for their children in private schools that offer a sense of family and a disciplined learning environment. Each year, Tri-County has been able to award about 450 scholarships but the waiting list of deserving applicants is nearly 2000. Since Tri-County provides partial scholarships, parents make significant financial sacrifices to provide this educational opportunity for their children. They are indeed the unsung heroes of the Tri-County mission.