The Diocese of Camden Black Catholic Ministries Commission supports South Jersey Catholic Schools with a high school scholarship and an essay contest for seventh and eighth graders.
Three one-year scholarships will be awarded to current eighth grade students who plan to attend a high school in the Diocese of Camden. The primary source of funding is an annual dinner dance. Celebrating its 26th year, the 2017 event will be An Afternoon of Jazz, Plus, featuring the band To the Max, on April 23 (http://www.camdendiocese.org/?event=afternoon-of-jazz-2017&event_date=2017-04-23).
“We get strong candidates and compelling stories,” said James Andrews, director of Black Catholic Ministries for the diocese.
Candidates complete an application, write an essay and participate in an interview. Awards are based on grades, activities and the interview, which takes place in April.
The 2016 recipients were Sajan Young from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Berlin (now a student at Saint Augustine Prep, Richland); Jillian Benberry, Saint Mary, Williamstown (Paul VI, Haddonfield); and Erika Ezeiruaku, Saint John Paul II, Stratford (Paul VI). Keeping with tradition, they will speak at the April Jazz event.
Scholarship recipient Priscilla Frederick sets the bar high.
Priscilla Frederick’s mother has a photo from the day her daughter won a Black Catholic Ministries scholarship. With a playful laugh, Frederick claims the photo has the “fresh, geeky dork” look she sported in eighth grade.
Frederick graduated from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School (Berlin) in 2003 and began high school at Paul VI in Haddonfield the same year.
“I fell in love when I visited,” said Frederick, adding it was theater and dance that grabbed her attention first. As a senior, Frederick decided her passion for the arts would take a back seat to her talent in track, which earned her a scholarship at Saint John’s University in New York City.
Frederick attributes her Catholic school experience to the faith-centered life she leads today. “[After graduating] I went to church on my own. I have my own relationship with God because of my foundation,” she said. Frederick shares her faith journey with youth groups, middle and high schools and colleges. She was a guest speaker for the Diocese of Camden’s Theology on Tap program last year.
“I’m not a perfect soldier for the Lord,” she said. “But I’m doing my best.”
Doing her best also includes the setbacks, sweat and sacrifice it takes to be a world-class high jumper. Frederick represented her father’s home country of Barbuda and Antigua, where she has dual citizenship, in the 2016 Rio Olympics. With her eye on 2020 and 2024, Frederick continues to train full time and compete internationally. In addition to speaking engagements, she coaches track at Princeton University and her alma mater, Paul VI.
In herself, Frederick sees “an everyday person living an extraordinary life.” She hopes God will lead her back to the stage when it is time to turn in her track shoes. “He has a lot in store for me,” she said.
An outspoken proponent of her Catholic faith and education, Frederick and the diocese have benefitted from the scholarship that helped her stay in Catholic school.
Essay contest underway
All seventh and eighth grade students in diocesan elementary schools have been invited to participate in the annual essay contest sponsored by the Black Catholic Ministries Commission. This year’s topic is “How are you aware of God’s presence in your life?” Each school will submit the top two essays from seventh graders and the top two essays from eighth graders.
“This contest has been going on for years,” said Andrews, citing the high caliber of writing submitted by Catholic school students. A team of reviewers from the Office of Black Catholic Ministries and the Office of Catholic Schools will review all submissions to help select the nine winning essays.
All students who write an essay will receive a certificate of participation. First and second place awards will be granted in each of three regions; diocesan awards will go to first, second and third place finalists. Winners will receive gift cards ranging from $50 to $150. Schools must submit all entries by March 10, 2017.