United Way of Northern New Jersey’s Varsity Letter Program honors community service
From helping children with special needs to writing to the elderly isolated during the pandemic to donating to area food pantries, 27 Millburn High School students performed a range of community service work that totaled more than 2,000 hours. Their efforts were honored at the end of the school year when they were awarded varsity letters.
The students took part in United Way of Northern New Jersey’s Varsity Letter Program, which recognizes students for volunteering. Millburn High School has participated in the program since it launched three years ago.
“United Way of Northern New Jersey sets the norm for community service high, in turn, raising the bar for students who choose to volunteer,” said Principal William Miron. “The varsity letter awarded to students rewards them for their efforts while reaffirming our school’s commitment to the character development of our population.”
To earn a varsity letter, each student needed to complete 80 hours or more of community service work, for a combined 2,000 hours logged.
“We are so thankful to the Millburn High School students who gave of their time during a challenging year,” said United Way Director of Community Relations Rose Twombly. “They didn’t let the pandemic stand in the way of helping those in need and making a difference.”
In addition, as part of their service, United Way asked students to dedicate 18 of their service hours to volunteer work focused on helping those who are ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) or in poverty.
While the pandemic imposed limitations on how students volunteered, they still found ways to help others and benefited from the experience along the way.
Sophomore Andrew Karch wrote letters to the elderly who were isolated early on in the pandemic. Junior Ethan Sterling helped an area food pantry, ensuring kids learning remotely still had access to food. Bella Spina, another junior, volunteered with the Friendship Circle, an organization that helps children with special needs.
“Because of COVID, I did not work directly with the kids like I would do in the past,” said Spina, who instead helped sort, pack and deliver items to the children. “I appreciate the skills this program has given me for the past two years, and I can’t wait to do it again.”
The following underclassmen also received varsity letters: freshman Riya Devroy; sophomores William Boo, Arihan Hukeri, Aamir Jamil, Dalia Pivawer, Sophia Rusert and Sean Woo; and juniors Daniel Boyko, Mia Cerrone, Erika De Lesseps, Shannon Finan, Gabrielle Hrung, Anshul Magal, Thaddeus Mahfouz, Aaryan Pugazendhi, Romi Robakidze, Madeline Rubin, Mackenzie Rubovitz, Harrison Silber and John Paul Sonza.
During her second year taking part in the Varsity Letter Program, senior Malini Popat baked goods for long-term pediatric patients and also fundraised for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation.
“Being a part of the United Way program has allowed me to expand my horizons through volunteering to help those who need it,” said Popat, who also established a list of scholarships available for brain tumor survivors.
Along with Popat, Alia Jamil, Celeste Choi and Sarah Pivawer rounded out the seniors who earned varsity letters for their civic engagement. Both Choi and Pivawer have participated in the program since it debuted at the school.
“It has been an honor to be able to volunteer the last three years...and make an impact on the world,” said Pivawer. “It has been an amazing experience.”