Singing the praises of Passaic County’s “Unsung Heroes”

Passaic County honors students for strength of character and personal resilience

By Sharon Milano, NJEA Communications Consultant

An “unsung hero” is typically considered to be one who performs great deeds but receives little or no recognition for their actions.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, this term was often used to describe teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) who tirelessly adapted to new challenges to ensure that students received the academic and emotional support they needed for continued success. Now, as we struggle to regain a sense of normalcy in our new post-pandemic world, we can take pride and comfort knowing that we are surrounded by a new generation of “unsung heroes” whose resiliency, kindness toward others and examples of leadership in their school communities are certain to make our world a better place.

To honor these students, the Passaic County Education Associations (PCEA) in collaboration with the Passaic County School Boards Association (PCSBA) sponsored a community program known as “Unsung Heroes.”  The program, which originated during the pandemic, was conducted in-person at Clifton High School for the first time since its inception.

“We see students do great things every day, and especiallynow, when many kids (and adults) are struggling to adapt to a post-COVID world, daily positive actions make the world a better place,” said PCEA President Sue Butterfield. “This year’s program celebrated high school seniors from 24 schools across the county, and these ‘Unsung Heroes’ were honored for a variety of reasons.”

Each high school throughout the county was asked to nominate a student who deserves to be recognized for their actions. Those who were nominated received a gift during the ceremony, courtesy of the PCEA, and a certificate of recognition from the PCSBA, as well as a certificate of recognition from the Passaic County commissioners.

Throughout the program, students were celebrated for both their strength of character and their outstanding leadership as role models in their school community.  Other students were recognized for having to cope with the loss of loved ones, overcoming personal injury or enduring cultural challenges. Profiles were submitted by school administrators and teachers, who described the contributions of those nominated.

“Education professionals and board of education members agree that special students deserve recognition. The Unsung Heroes of Passaic County are the very definition of success—their daily actions show the world that they live their values,” Butterfield continued. “It was an honor to meet each senior and hear their stories, not to mention celebrate them publicly. We look forward to seeing how each one of these heroes continues to shape our world for the better.”

The 2023 Passaic County “Unsung Heroes” include:

James Russnak, Butler High School

Nayla Baradhi, Clifton High School

Adam Hdaib, Hawthorne High School

Sebastian Palmer, Lakeland Regional High School

William Soto, Manchester Regional High School

Saurelys Escano, Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering

Melanie Soto, Passaic Preparatory Academy

Dasmerilys Herrera Soriano, Passaic High School No. 12

Vanessa Hernandez, Diana C. Lobosco STEM Academy

Delanie Johna Morrissey, Passaic County Technical Institute

Destiny Walton, Passaic Valley Regional High School

Emily Barahona, Paterson Charter School for Science/Technology

Lynora Brown-Hinnant, Alonzo "Tambua" Moody Academy

Symiah Brown-Cobb, Eastside High School

Javier O. Sanchez Pantaleon, International High School

Justin Franscique, John F. Kennedy High School

Bryan Chacon Solis, Bilingual Adult School

Tiffany Thiero, Paterson P-TECH

Treyvon Watson, Paterson STEAM High School

Nia Williams, Rosa L. Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts

Mia Eberhart, Pompton Lakes High School

Adrian Rodriguez, Wayne Hills High School

Ranaka Saira, Wayne Valley High School

Gianna Hardison, West Milford High School