New Jersey Youth Soccer announced six scholarships at its 30th annual awards dinner Friday night.
Earning the Jeanine Willis Scholarship was Giana Pittaro and Ryan Eusebi. The Brett Fenster Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Megan Foley and Kevin Bretz, while the Allan B. Sinclair Memorial Scholarship was received by Jenna Mandell and Vincent Lamina.
Jeanine Willis Scholarship
This scholarship was established to honor the numerous contributions that Jeanine Willis made to youth soccer. She was NJ Youth Soccer’s first executive director. She also served as a member of the NJYS board of directors. Each year, NJ Youth Soccer awards this scholarship to deserving college-bound high school seniors who have participated in the NJ Youth Soccer State Cup program.
Pittaro began playing soccer at four-years-old and reached the Region 1 Player Pool. She has played for Match Fit Academy, New Jersey Rush and the Hamilton Wildcats, competing multiple times in the NJYS State Cups.
“I have learned from soccer some very important traits such as patience, attention to detail, hard work, leadership, preparedness, flexibility and teamwork,” Pittaro said.
Pittaro has excelled with a high class ranking and 4.82 GPA. This fall, Pittaro has committed to play soccer at Yale University.
Eusebi began playing soccer at four as well. He has called the Hazlet United Soccer Association his club home for the past 10 years. While enjoying success, she also has learned many important life lessons. One in particular that sticks out to him is that “life doesn’t always go your way.”
Eusebi is known for his work ethic. He spends countless hours practicing ball skills and working on conditioning. A dedicated student, he became the valedictorian of his eighth-grade class and was admitted to High Technology High School, where he is a commended scholar and a National Hispanic Scholar. Eusebi is nseeking to further his education at an Ivy League university and has submitted applications to several schools.
Brett Fenster Memorial Scholarship
Fenster played soccer from the age of five until he graduated from high school. He began participating in the recreation program in West Windsor before advancing to play travel and high school soccer. His love for the sport soon flourished, along with his interest in the arts and humanity. Fenster passed away in 2010 at the age of 23, at which time the scholarship was enacted.
Foley has been involved with soccer since she was four. She played for West Windsor Plainsboro Soccer Association, Match Fit Academy and Mercer FC. She also played high school soccer at West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional High School. Due to some personal challenges, she eventually shifted her focus from player to coach. She is actively involved in supporting her teammates from the sideline and also coaches at the youth level. In the classroom, she currently holds a 3.99 GPA and has applied to a number of universities on the east and west coasts.
“Every hardship can be worked through with a bit of optimism and resolve,” Foley said. “Although I can no longer play soccer at the collegiate level, all the life lessons I have learned through soccer have prepared me for college and have ultimately helped shape me into the person that I am today and will be tomorrow.”
Bretz began playing soccer at six for the Bloomfield Soccer Club. He was known for fast feet, excellent ball skills and unselfish play. Because of a personal issue that was discovered during a game, he was temporarily forced away from the field. Through the support of his family and friends, along with a positive attitude, Bretz returned to the field. He has applied to several colleges in New Jersey and along the east coast.
“My love of the sport and desire to play again motivated me in my darkest hours,” Bretz said.
Allan B. Sinclair Memorial Scholarship
This scholarship was established to honor the many contributions that Sinclair made to youth soccer. Sinclair had an extensive career with NJ Youth Soccer, serving as NJYS president for nearly 25 years before working as executive director from 2008-2012. His time and dedication to youth soccer was mostly done as a volunteer, not only in the state but also in the region.
Mandell was introduced to soccer through toddler programs and recreation soccer. She progressed to play competitively for the Mount Olive Soccer Club’s travel team while also playing varsity soccer for Mount Olive High School.
“Being able to work with players of all skill levels, personalities and social groups has provided the foundation to work well with others outside of the sports environment,” Mandell said. “It is important to show leadership skills, which requires guidance, decision-making and confidence.”
Her leadership skills and commitment to volunteer work have been demonstrated through her involvement in mentoring young referees and players. She also serves as the secretary of the Mount Olive High School Key Club, which focuses on the needs of the community. Mandell is the vice president of the Science National Honor Society, where she oversees tutoring initiatives and group events.
Mandell also helps organize such initiatives as Safe Trick-or-Treat events, Relay for Life and Curesaders. In the classroom, she has maintained a 4.38 GPA and is ranked in the top 10 percent of her class. She is considering colleges in the New England area, as well as others along the east coast.
Lamina is an avid soccer player who started participating in the sport at five. He plays for SJEB Rush and Bishop Eustace Preparatory School. He said soccer helped him develop characteristics like patience, open-mindedness, acceptance, integrity and self-discipline.
As a team leader, Mandell has understood the importance of leading by example. His leadership skills have been demonstrated through his involvement with the TOPSoccer program at the Marlton Recreation Council Sports Unity Program. He maintains a 3.4 GPA and is planning to play college soccer at a school in the Northeast.