The Vietnam Veterans of America Chautauqua County Chapter 459 announce the 2012 scholarship winners. The scholarships are awarded to students who are dependents of Vietnam-era veterans who will graduate as a member of the Class of 2012 from an accredited Chautauqua County high school and present proof a parent is of Vietnam-era military service.
Candidates must demonstrate good character, honesty, sincerity, desire, motivation, responsibility, academics and financial need. Recipients have modeled cooperation with fellow students and teachers in their school and proven leadership qualities through community involvement in various civic organizations.
The following students were awarded scholarships:
Katherine Carr, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald W. Carr Jr. of Dunkirk, is salutatorian of the class of 2012 at Dunkirk Senior High School. Carr has been an active student in the school and community during her high school career, participating in organizations such as National Honor Society (vice president), Student Council (Vice president), S.A.D.D. (president), Student Ambassadors, Envirothon, French club and Photography club. She is an active leader at Blessed Mary Angela R.C. parish by being involved in the Youth Ministry program, a member of the Youth Leadership Team, an altar server and a Eucharistic minister. She is also a YES volunteer for the City of Dunkirk Youth Bureau. Carr is also involved in DHS musicals and plays, choir, select choir and jazz band and is currently the president of the band. She has participated in NYSSMA solo fest and All County Choir. This year, Carr was named a Western New York Business First Community All Star. In the fall, Carr will begin her college career by attending Jamestown Community College as a liberal arts major. She thanks her family for their continuous support and the Vietnam Veterans of America for their generosity in assisting high school seniors in their academic endeavors.
Connor R. Grey, son of Lynda and Randy Grey of Frewsburg, participates in National Honor Society, Leo Club, Environthon, Varsity Baseball and Varsity Basketball at Frewsburg Central School. He plans to pursue a pre-med degree at either St. John Fisher College in Rochester or State University of New York at Fredonia. He intends to play baseball while attending either college. His hobbies are baseball, basketball, bowling, golf and being with his friends.
Aron Oakes of Westfield will be graduating from Westfield Central School in June. Throughout his life he has been involved in various activities within his community. He has done volunteer work for the North Lake Youth Soccer Organization and the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club. During high school, Oakes has participated in JV and Varsity Soccer and has been a volunteer in the Big Brother, Big Sister program. He has also been employed at Chautauqua Marina for the past three years. Oakes will be attending Jamestown Community College in fall 2012 and will major in information technology.
Sean Pecuch is a senior at Fredonia High School and will graduate in June with an Advanced Regents Diploma with Honors. He has been active in Student Council, the QUEST backpacking club, cross country and golf. He was the yearbook and school newspaper photographer. He was a member of the high school musical lighting and stage crew for seven years. Pecuch has participated in band and chorus since elementary school and is in the advanced music program, participating in numerous NYSSMA events, NY Area All State Orchestra and All County Music Festivals. He has taken private piano, drum and mallet lessons. Pecuch is actively involved in Boy Scout Troop 267, having achieved his Eagle Scout rank last summer. He is a member of the Fredonia Fire Department Explorer's Post as well as Zion Lutheran Church. Pecuch works part time for the OBSERVER as a sports photographer. He plans to attend SUNY Potsdam in the fall to pursue a degree in environmental studies.
Melissa Smith of Brocton Central School would like to express her sincerest appreciation for making this scholarship available to her. This gift has eased a financial burden from her family. She has been raised by a father who has taught her from an early age how to take care of and make minor repairs to the family vehicles. This scholarship will enable her to continue her education in this field. Smith will pursue an associate's degree in PowerSports. She has worked hard to get to this point in her education and her father is proud of her for being the first person in the family to make it to college. The Vietnam Scholarship is a blessing for her and she plans to do everything in her power to succeed at this phase in her life. She will do her best to give back to the community.
William Begier III was born two months premature with the odds stacked against him. His family was optimistic of his survival, especially his grandfather Sgt. William Begier I. Being a Marine, his grandfather knew a fighter when he saw one and knew that his grandson was one. Despite the odds, Begier survived and has been rather successful. His grandfather has been a huge part of his life through his support, knowledge and guidance. Begier's grandfather was and will always be his hero.
Begier initially wanted to follow his grandfather's footsteps and join the Marines but his grandfather didn't support that. He wanted his grandson to get an education, so Begier listened. He decided to become an electrical engineer for the money, but his grandfather told him that money didn't matter and to pick what made him happy. He still considered becoming an electrical engineer until the day his grandfather died. It was that day that his words truly hit Begier. He then changed his mind and decided to pursue something that would truly make him happy: the field of conservation and forestry.
Elizabeth Sawka, daughter of Rosemarie and the late Vincent Sawka, is a senior at Fredonia High School and is currently enrolled in the 3-1-3 program at SUNY Fredonia. During the first semester, she tool English Composition and Macroeconomics. For the second semester, she will complete Novels and Tales and American Politics. In Sept., she was awarded the Senior Student of the Month, and in January, she was the Rotary Student of the Month. In June, she graduated with an Advanced Regents Diploma with Honors.
For six years, Sawka ran cross country at Fredonia, earning the JV Coach's Award in her freshman and senior years. She has been on the high school newspaper, The Spectator, for three years and is now a managing editor. Each year of high school she has participated as a member of the hair and make-up crew for the school plays and musicals.
In her free time, Sawka enjoys reading, writing, running and doing yoga. She has enjoyed her senior year and is excited to move on to college. She has been accepted to Canisius College, Niagara University and SUNY Geneseo and has decided to attend Canisius College in the fall to major in English and minor in creative writing. After college, she plans on editing for a book publishing company and would love to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue her career.
Andrew Jon (AJ) Riforgiat is the son of Jon and Ronnette (Lemanski) Riforgiat of Fredonia. He is the grandson of Gail (Boryczka) Riforgiat and the late Anthony "Bud" Riforgiat, veteran of the Korean War, and Patricia (Barlette) and James Lemanski, veteran of the Vietnam War.
Riforgiat is a senior at Fredonia High School and has made the merit or honor roll every quarter of his high school career. He has played hockey since he was three and enjoys playing goal. He is the 2012 NCCYHA Winner of the Mark Steger Memorial Spirit Award. Riforgiat is currently playing varsity baseball for the Hillbillies. His interests include playing fantasy hockey, football and baseball and spending time with his family and his basset hound Fred.
Riforgiat is employed with the New York State Parks Department and works at Lake Erie State Park. He spent his spring break touring Greece and Italy with the Fredonia School. Riforgiat will start his collegiate career at Jamestown Community College with architecture as his field of study.