Recipients of seven 2022 Sparta VFW Ralph Rojas Scholarships totaling a record $16,000, were announced during an April 20 ceremony at Sparta VFW Post #7248.
Julia Decker, a senior at Newton High School, received a $4,000 with a 3.7 GPA, will attend Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., in fall 2022, to obtain a nursing degree. Decker serves as student council president, varsity field hockey team captain, steering committee peer leader and Love with Boundaries community fundraiser among other activities.
Decker has overcome great physical and emotional challenges; After being abandoned by her birth family, Decker spent the first three years of her life in a special needs orphanage in China due to a craniofacial disorder before being adopted by a loving American family. Decker’s adoptive father and uncle served in the United States Navy on the USS Detroit, her adoptive grandfather served as a medic in the United States Army during the Korean War, and her adoptive grandmother’s cousin, Rear Admiral Roberta Hazard, became the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. military in 1988.
William Morrison of Newton was awarded $3,000 joined the New Jersey National Guard as an infantryman in 2017 while still a junior at Newton High School. He graduated high school in 2018 and was deployed to Somalia in 2019 for nine months, then activated for six months to the Rockaway COVID-19 vaccination site in 2020. Morrison made the dean’s list every semester while attending Sussex County Community College and is currently pursuing a business administration degree at Montclair State University.
Collin Mills, graduated Pope John XXIII Regional High School in 2021 and is a United States Air Force (USAF) E-1 contracted cadet 4th class at University of Oklahoma with a concentration on aviation management flying pursuing a United States Air Force commission, received $3,000.
During his first semester in college, Mills earned a 3.44 GPA while taking 16 credit hours in the demanding major of aviation/flight operations.
According to USAF Lt. Col. Richard Hennies, assistant professor of aerospace studies, “Out of all 73 of my freshmen Air Force ROTC cadets, Cadet Collin Mills would easily be my number one recommendation.”
Olivia Enderle, a senior at Sparta High School at which she’s been in the STEM program with a biomedical emphasis since freshman year; has recieved a $1,500 award.
She is involved in academic clubs, arts clubs and athletic teams; and carries a cumulative weighted GPA of 4.43. In fall 2022, Enderle will begin pursuing a biology/pre-med degree from University of Scranton. Enderle’s father served 28 years in the United States Navy and Enderle plans to follow in his footsteps by serving our country within the Medical Corps.
Kaitlyn Benes received a $1,500 award pursuing STEM. She graduated Kittatinny Regional High School in 2020 and attends the University of New Haven, Connecticut, at which she’s earning a 3.82 GPA while simultaneously earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and working two jobs to offset the cost of college.
Benes’ father is a commander in the Navy and her grandfather served in the Marine Corps.
Olivia Finkeldie, a 2020 Sparta High School graduate, received a $1,500 award. She attends Colgate University in New York at which she majors in international relations while minoring in peace and conflict studies as well as German language studies.
Finkeldie is working towards a college internship in international relations with a United Nations representative and hopes to follow college graduation with law school, pursuing a career in diplomacy or as a human rights lawyer. Finkeldie’s father, John H. Finkeldie III, a member of the Sparta VFW, was with the Marine Corps for 21 years.
Jack Maraziti, a senior at Sparta High School, received $1,500. He plays three varsity sports, volunteers for the community, and is a top student in his graduating class maintaining a cumulative weighted GPA of 4.76. This summer, Maraziti will commence pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at United States Military Academy West Point, New York. Maraziti’s uncle and great-grandfather served in the United States Marines.
“We congratulate the recipients of the 2022 Sparta VFW Ralph Rojas Sparta Scholarships,” said Sparta VFW Ralph Rojas Scholarship Committee Chairperson Rosemarie Russell. “Our pool of applicants increased by 50% this year, increasing the challenge involved in the committee’s selection process given the proven character, high level of academic achievement and strong drive evidenced by the entire pool of applicants.”
2022 Sparta VFW Ralph Rojas Scholarship recipients were selected by the scholarship committee based upon Veteran status, character and academic achievement. Each recipient receives a check to be used in the 2022-2023 school year towards postsecondary educational-related expenses such as tuition, books and fees.