The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) honored three extraordinary Essex County high school students with the Nancy and Robert Eskow NCJW Volunteer Awards. The recipients of the awards were recognized for their outstanding contributions to many different causes, including long-term volunteer efforts towards congenital heart defects, preventing and raising awareness of substance abuse, and creating a district program to assist children with Selective Mutism. This is the 16th year the award has been bestowed to deserving high school students.
The 2019 award winners include Curtis Mark of Orange High School, Giulia Russo of James Caldwell High School, and Allison Kofsky of Columbia High School. These high school seniors have shown a dedication to improving the lives of others locally and globally. This year’s winners of the Nancy and Robert Eskow NCJW Volunteer Awards each received a $500 scholarship and a commemorative certificate.
Curtis Mark, a senior at Orange High School, began volunteering with the non-profit organization Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team (ADAPT), where he was able to expand his knowledge about substance abuse in order to help his community. “To make a community-level change, we must involve the community in our efforts,” reflected Curtis. “Once we do this, the room for growth is endless.” Through all of his efforts to prevent substance abuse, he was presented with numerous awards and was selected as the sole United States Delegate at the United Nations Youth Forum.
Allison Kofsky, a senior attending Columbia High School, was 15 when she started her own district program called “Playground Pals” to aid and spread awareness of children impacted by Selective Mutism (SM). The inspiration behind this program was generated from her younger cousin’s experience battling SM, a rare childhood anxiety disorder that hinders people’s ability to vocalize in various settings. “Playground Pals assists children struggling with Selective Mutism with feeling included and less isolated during their lunch and recess periods. It quite literally, provides a voice to the voiceless,” she says proudly.
Giulia Russo, a senior attending James Caldwell High School, was twelve years old when she was informed that she had a large hole (atrial septal defect) in her heart that only open heart surgery could fix. Although this information would change Russo’s life forever, the positive path she followed stands out. She became involved with the Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Coalition and has led a journal drive for the past 5 years to distribute journals to patients during treatment.
Winners of the Nancy and Robert Eskow Volunteer Award reflect the mission and values of NCJW/Essex through their commitment and dedication to community service projects and advocacy experienced during their high school careers. In recognition of their exemplary contributions, each received a $500 scholarship and an award certificate from NCJW/Essex.