2022 Althea Gibson Leadership Awards are Presented to Essex County Schools of Technology Students Alicia Augustin, Samantha Arias and Katreena Deodatt and Essex County College Student Ines Kenfack Donfack
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., hosted the County’s Annual Women’s History Month Program at the Essex County Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Building on Wednesday, March 30th. The theme of this year’s ceremony is “Students Achieving Today – Our Leaders of Tomorrow.” During the ceremony, 2022 Essex County Althea Gibson Leadership Awards were presented to Alicia Augustin from the Essex County Donald Payne, Sr. School of Technology, Samantha Arias from Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology, Katreena Deodatt from Essex County Newark Tech School of Technology and Ines Kenfack Donfack from Essex County College.
“Through their academic achievements and contributions to their local communities, these remarkable young women are on the road to success. Each is unique in their own way, having a profound impact on their schools. Striving for their goals and never letting anything stop them is part of what has driven them to reach the level of success that they have achieved thus far in their lives,” DiVincenzo said. “These young women have made tremendous contributions and are establishing themselves as leaders of our future generations,” he added.
Katreena Deodatt is a senior at Essex County Newark Tech. She is Co-Captain of the Varsity Debate team, the number one policy debater in New Jersey and a national qualifier in speech and debate. She also serves as the President of Student Council and National Honor Society, and is enrolled in Newark Tech’s TEAL Center, which will enable her to earn both her high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree at the same time. Because building and supporting the Newark Tech family is important to Deodatt, she serves as a Senior Mentor to 12 of the current freshmen. Last year, she was an ambassador for the Cares Mentoring Program which centers on addressing the emotional, social, and physical well-being of students. She also is part of the morning announcement crew, and regularly reminds her classmates that “Dreams don’t work unless you do” at the end of announcements. Deodatt strives to fit the mission of excellence that is expected of everyone; because that is what a Newark Tech Terrier is!
“Thank you for this opportunity. I stand here as a young woman but I am representative of all the young women at Newark Tech. I want to thank my family and my other who taught me that your mind is your greatest tool,” Deodatt said.
Alicia Augustin is a senior at the Essex County Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology. She is part of the Payne Scholars, a selective program funded by the Payne Foundation in which students take college courses in government and politics. Augustine has a grade point average of 4.4, has been named an AP Scholar and an African American Recognition Scholar by the college board, is a finalist for the Ron Brown Scholarship and a semifinalist for the national Jackie Robinson scholarship. In addition, she is captain of the Girls Varsity Soccer team and the Payne Tech Mock Trial Club, which won the county competition due to her leadership. Augustin gave back to her school community by spending her most recent summer developing curriculum and teaching Essex County middle school students in the Essex County Schools of Technology District’s inaugural Mock Trial Summer Camp. She also is a senior mentor, providing a group of freshmen emotional and academic support as they navigate through their first year at Payne Tech.
“Thank you so much this award. I thank my family for their support, especially my mother, who is the strongest woman in my life. She always motivates me. I am so grateful to thrive at the Donald Payne School and take advantage of all its programs,” Augustin said.
Samantha Arias is a junior at the Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology. She spends her time volunteering at the Wild Bird Fund in New York City and working with other environmental organizations, such as Clean Ocean Action and Save Coastal Wildlife. At school, Arias is Vice President of the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), and a member of the National Honor Society. She has a passion for music, leading the children’s choir at her local church, and singing at school events and parades that honor her Latin American roots. Samantha aspires to use her voice in order to make way for other women of color in STEM and the performing arts.
“I want to be an image for women in science because as I was growing up I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” Arias said.
Ines Kenfack Donfack is a student at Essex County College where she is studying Biology and Pre-Medicine, with aspirations to become a physician so she can give back to the community and help people. Kenfack Donfack, who is originally from Douala, Cameroon, is no stranger to Essex County, having graduated from Essex County Newark Tech. At ECC, she is the Treasurer of the Biology/Pre-Medicine Club, and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Essex Chemical Society. She also serves as a math, biology and chemistry tutor for other students at the ECC Learning Center.
“Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me, especially during the transition from high school to college during the pandemic. All the leadership has helped me grow into the woman I am today,” Kenfack Donfack said.
The invocation was given by Carrie Washington, Director of Pastor Services for the Essex County Psychiatric Hospital and Essex County Correctional Facility. Xanaria Jackman, a freshman attending the Essex County Donald Payne, Sr. School of Technology, sang a choral selection during the program. Samantha Arias sang the National Anthem.
The Annual Essex County Althea Gibson Leadership Awards are dedicated to the memory of the late professional tennis and golf legend, who was the first African-American to win the Wimbledon Tennis and U.S. Golf Championships. In 1957, Ms. Gibson became the first African-American to win the All-England Championship. That same year she became the first black to be voted by the Associated Press as its Female Athlete of the Year. The Althea Gibson Foundation exposes children in the inner city to the game of tennis and golf, and provides recreational activities for students during the summer.
The Women’s History Month Celebration is part of a year long cultural series created by County Executive DiVincenzo to highlight the diversity and various ethnic groups in Essex County. Other cultural celebrations are African American Heritage, Irish Heritage, Italian Heritage, Jewish Heritage, Latino Heritage and Portuguese Heritage.