CHARLOTTE O'LEARY - Montclair High School - In order to be tapped as the Best and Brightest Scholar-Athlete from Essex County, New Jersey's 40+ high schools, one must possess an extremely strong academic resume and leadership skills; reach the pinnacle of athletic achievement in his/her particular sport; meet the challenge of community service and volunteerism. After many hours of discussion, the Men of Essex was proud to choose both Charlotte O'Leary from Montclair High School and Jocelyn Willoughby of Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey as the 2016 Co-Essex Award winners.
"Cha", as she is affectionately called by her family and friends, sports a 4.49 GPA and is a 3-time New Jersey State Champion in the 100m Breaststroke event (2014, 2015, and 2016). She is an 11-time YMCA All-American, having begun her career at the Montclair YMCA, where she followed older sisters, Kate, Maeve, and Nora into the pool and fell in love with swimming.
Nationally, this 5'1 0", 140 Ibs. scholar-athlete was a Scholastic All-American in 2014 and 2015. As a high school swimmer, Cha accumulated the following accolades: a three-time NJ.com/Star Ledger 1st Team All-State selection in the 100m Breaststroke; the 4-time Essex County Champion (100m Breaststroke); the 200 Individual Medley (2016); the Montclair High School Team Record Holder in the 200m 1M, 100m Breaststroke; the 200m MR, the 400m FR, and the 200m FR; the team's Dual Meet Record holder - undefeated in the 100m Breaststroke; team Sectional Champion (2015) and finalist (2013,2014 and 2016). Charlotte was co-captain of Girls Swimming team her junior and senior years, and was selected team Most Valuable Player and Race of the Year winner in 2014, 2015 and 2016. "It's been really an honor to represent Montclair High School," says Charlotte.
The amount of dedication and hard work that Charlotte displays is indicative of all of the Men of Essex Awardees. On an average day, Cha arrives at the pool at 5:30 am until school begins after 8:00 am, and then after school, she is swimming with her club team - the Montclair YMCA Dolphins until 7:00 pm. She holds multiple records at the Montclair YMCA in the 50m, 100m, and 200m Breaststroke; 200m Fly; and, 200m and 400m MR.
Academically, Charlotte earned a 4.49 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society and the French National Honor Society. Her AP courses included: US History, English, Art History, as well as the following Honors and High Honors classes: Calculus, Anatomy and Physiology, and Physics. Cha is a Peer Leader and is a member of Key Club; Swim Across America, and a Montclair H.S. Athletic Council Leader.
Cha's community service includes volunteering atToni's Kitchen - a food ministry that provides
hot, nutritious meals to the homeless at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Montclair; the Montclair
YMCA, where she is a lifeguard and swim coach; and, Relay for Life - a worldwide movement to
Montclair Girls Swimming Coach Ed Koenigsfest: "Cha is just unreal. She's made her school
and her coach definitely, very proud." She's also made her mother, Jane, and father, Kevin very proud, as well. Both are Georgetown University graduates, but Charlotte will be taking her immense aquatic talents to the Ivy League where she will swim for Yale University.
Jocelyn Willoughby of Newark Academy is the other Essex County Best and Brightest high school scholar athlete. Academically, Jocelyn has a 4.01 GPA; 1830 SAT. She is a Cum Laude Honor Society member; Lead Admissions Ambassador; Equity and Inclusion Team Executive Board Member; Phillips Academy Alumni Association; and, Freshmen Group Peer Leader.
Willoughby was selected the N.J. Girls Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year; NJ.com/Star-Ledger 1st Team All-State; 1st Team MSG Network All-N.J. Girls Basketball team; 1stTeam AII-Non-Public; 1st Team All-Prep B; 1 st Team All-Conference (Liberty Division); 1 st Team All-Senior; and 38th Annual NJ North-South All-Star Classic Participant.
Her community service includes Minuteman Society Executive Board Member; From Houses to
Homes, a St. Bernard Project, founded in 2006 to rebuild homes for residents from the St. Bernard
Parish in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, with volunteers in Missouri, New York State, New
Jersey, Texas and South Carolina, and President of Umojaa, an African American Cultural Club
based at Newark Academy.
As a sophomore, Jocelyn joined the 1000th point club as one of a handful of scholastic bas-
ketball players in the State of New Jersey to reach that plateau. Despite injuring her hamstring and
missing a significant portion of the season in 2015, this 6'0", 170 Ibs. senior finished her career
with 1,708 points, which was the highest (male or female) point total in Newark Academy's history.
She was selected to the 2016 Girls Basketball 2nd Team MSG All-Metro team; featured in SLAM
magazine (May 2016 edition); Ranked 47th nationally overall for Girls Basketball college recruits,
8th by position, by HoopGurlz I 28th overall by ProspectNation I 15th overall by All Star Girls Report (ASGR); a McDonald's All-American Nominee; a MaxPreps 4th Team All-American; and, the 2015 ASGR Summer League Player of the Year.
In 2015, Jocelyn was the MVP of the ASGR Elite 24 All-Star Game, and the MVP of the Battle in the Boro Tournament sponsored by National Exposure Basketball in Nashville, Tennessee. She was selected 1 st Team All-Conference, 1 st Team All-Prep B, 2nd Team All-State Non-Public, and
2nd Team All-Essex as a sophomore (when she reached the 1 ,000th point mark), which followed
an amazing freshman season where Jocelyn was selected 1 st Team All-State Prep B, 1 st Team
All-Conference, 2nd Team All-State Fresh./Soph., and 2nd Team All-Essex.
Jocelyn was recruited by UConn, Duke, Florida State, Northwestern, Penn State, Princeton, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and several others, but has chosen to play in the ACC at the University of
Virginia at Charlottesville.
"We are extremely excited to have Jocelyn join our fantastic 2016 recruiting class," University
of Virginia's Women's Basketball Coach Joanne Boyle said. "Jocelyn is an extraordinarily versatile
guard with great size, who is effective on both ends of the floor. She is one of the strongest wings
in the country and will be a match-up problem for opponents in a variety of ways. Jocelyn's ability
to score from the outside and her strength around the basket, as both a scorer and a rebounder, will add to the depth of our team. Her size and power will allow us to play her in multiple positions
on the defensive side of the ball. A proven winner with the heart of a leader, Jocelyn's abilities and
personality will be a great fit in the up-tempo, physical style of the ACC."
This 5'7" 158 pound multi-sport star was the captain of the Soccer and Wrestling teams, in addition to
running Track & Field. A Boy Scout and then Eagle Scout, [yaire was a Wrestling 1 st Team All-Conference
selection for three years and the Star-Ledger Athlete of the Week during Winter 2016. He also received
Soccer All-Conference Honorable Mention for two years. [yaire is undecided between Montclair State
University and Utica College.
Misheel is a member of the First Tech Challenge Robotics team and co-founder of the TED-Ed club. As
captain of the Boys Fencing team, he garnered 1st Team All-State honors and State championship in Foil
in his senior year, after being a sub his Junior year. He qualified for the Junior Olympics and the Summer
Nationals for Juniors (Div. 1A/Div. l}, while placing 4th at the North American Cup for Senior Men's
Teams. Misheel will be attending the University of California - San Diego.
The captain of the State Sectional Champion Soccer Team, Zach garnered 1st Team All-State, 1st Team
All-Essex, 1st Team All-Area and 1st Team All-League honors. The midfielder had 9 goals and 14 assists
which led to a Regional All-American selection. His community service included being a member of the
Unity Club and Relay for Life. A leader on the field and in the classroom, Zach has earned an athletic
scholarship to Temple University.
Jordan was the lead complainant in an historic suit leading to the South Orange/Maplewood Board of
Education adopting two landmark policies that enforces access to advanced level and AP courses for
African American students at Columbia H.S. A multi-sport star, Jordan scored 900 career points and was the co-captain of the Girls Basketball team as a junior when she garnered All-SEC Conference honors. Jordan also placed 9th in the Triple Jump at the New Balance Outdoor Championships last year. Jordan will attend Pittsburgh University this fall.
The co-captain and Most Valuable Player for the E.O. Campus Softball team, Cindy earned 2nd Team
All-SEC/Independence Division honors and was the winner of the [enna Flinch Award. A member of
the East Orange chapter of the National Honor Society and the Essex County chapter of The Links, Cindy
also was a part of the Rutgers-Newark University Trio Upward Bound Program. Cindy has been admitted
to Cornell University.
A 3-year varsity Soccer captain, Kevin earned 1st Team All-Super Essex Conference honors in 2014 and
2015, as well as being named to the Boys Basketball 2nd Team All-Super Essex Conference in 2016. Kevin
was also a volunteer with the Cedar Grove Junior Baseball and Softball League and a member of St. Catherine of Siena Church. As of this writing, Kevin was undecided between Rutgers University (New Brunswick), Syracuse University and Rowan University
A 3-sport star (Girls Volleyball, Girls Basketball and Outdoor Track & Field), Jasmine is one of very few
athletes at Columbia High School who have earned letters in multiple sports. As captain of the Volleyball
and Basketball teams, Jasmine was named to the 1st Team All-SEC Conference in 2014 & 2015 (Girls Vol-
leyball); 2nd Team All-SEC Conference (Girls Basketball) as a sophomore and junior; and, won gold in
High Jump at the 2015 Essex County Relays, gold in Shot Put & Discus at the 2015 SEC Championships.
She is a Youth Leader at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Jasmine will attend Oberlin College this fall.
This Villanova University-bound senior played Girls Soccer and Basketball garnering 1st Team All-Conference and 2nd Team All-Conference honors, respectively. Lauren is President of the United Way Club,
a Strut For a Cure volunteer, and member of the Saint Rose ofLima church. Lauren will be attending Vil-
lanova University in the fall.
Marvellous was a 2-sport (Girls Basketball and Track & Field) standout. As the Girls Varsity Basketball captain, she was chosen as the team's Most Valuable Player, and received 1st Team All-Super Essex Conference honors, as well. Marvellous is president of the National Honor Society and an Executive Board Mem-
ber of Class Council at the East Orange STEM Academy. A member of Our Lady of the Valley Church,
Marvellous is undecided between Georgetown University, USC, and Boston College.
Brian is a member of the National Honor Society and the World Language Honor Society. As Captain of the varsity soccer and baseball teams, Rennie excelled in both but received the following honors in soccer: 2nd Team All-Conference in 2014 and 2015 and 2nd Team All Essex County in 2015. Brian, who serves as the Student Government Association Event Coordinator has narrowed his college choices to Princeton
University, Stevens Institute of Technology or The College of New Jersey.
As captain, Eliana earned 1st Team All-Conference for Girls Volleyball for the last three years and was
awarded the MVP and Best Hitter awards. She garnered 1st Team All-Conference, 1st Team All-County
(where she is the County Record Holder), and 3rd Team All-Group for accomplishments at the Winter
and Spring Track & Field events. Eliana was the Group 3 State Relay Champion last year. Eliana will attend
Northeastern University in the fall
An Indoor and Outdoor Track star, Cheyenne has led the Track & Field team as captain her junior and
senior years. At the 20 J 5 Essex County Outdoor Relays, she won gold in the 4x100, 4x200, 4x800 events,
and won gold in the 100m dash at the Super Essex Conference Championships. In 2013, Cheyenne was part of the 4x100 Relay team that set a N.J. State record and placed 5th in U.S. history. Cheyenne volun-
teers at St. John's Lutheran Church, and earned an Essex County Prosecutor's internship. She will attend
Syracuse University in the fall.
A two-year captain for the Varsity Baseball team, Dustin is a 2-time 2nd Team All Conference and an Honorable Mention Super Essex Conference, Group A selection. He is a member of PS2 Prime Sports Systems. As of this writing, Dustin is undecided about his college choice.
Kevin is coming off a strong junior campaign in 2015, where he posted an 11-2 record as a pitcher. Czapelski did not pitch as a sophomore following Tommy John surgery but bounced back in a big way last spring with 65 strikeouts. He also helped the Group 4 Champions with 30 hits, 19 runs, 3 homeruns and 32 runs batted in. Last spring, Kevin was selected 3rd Team All-State and 1st Team All Group 4. Kevin has committed to Sacred Heart University, and his future is bright.
This University of Maryland-bound sharpshooting guard averaged 24.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists,
5 blocked shots and 3.2 steals per game. A leader on and off the court, Blair is the all-time leading Nutley
scorer as she finished her secondary school career with 2,127 points. Watson, a 2016 McDonald's All-
American, was selected 1st Team All-State and 1st Team All-Group 3. Blair's hard work also earned her
the 2016 NJ.com/Star-Ledger Player of the Year Award.
It's no secret that T.J. hails from a very talented family of basketball stars. He may be the best of the bunch,
and arguably has one of the smoothest shots around. T.J. is headed to Notre Dame to play for the Fighting
Irish. Gibbs, who averaged 20 points per game was selected 1st Team-All State, 1st Team-All Non-Public
and named the Super Essex Conference Player of the Year. Gibbs finished with 1,987 career- points and
made 197 career three pointers. He led the Pirates to an Essex County Tournament title and a trip to the
North Jersey, Non-Public Division A final. T.J. is now a 2-time Men of Essex award recipient.
Juliet's victories this past season included the Essex County Championship with a time of 17:56. The talented Montclair distance running has chosen the University of Pennsylvania to continue her studies and running career. Juliet was selected 2nd Team All-State and 1st Team All-Group 4. Juliet was named the Nl.corn/Star- Ledger Super Essex Conference Runner of the Year.
Matt won the state Group 4 title in 15:32, than placed 4th at the Meet of Champions in 15.44. Grossman,
a junior, won the N.J. Section 2 title, was first at the Essex County meet, ran a course-record of 15:41 at
the Super Essex Conference Championships and was third in the Eastern race. Matt qualified for the Foot
Locker National Championships by placing eighth at the regional meet. Grossman was selected 1st Team
All-State by the Nl.corn/Star-Ledger. He also runs the 3,200m in Indoor Track.
Marissa, a junior, was selected 2nd Team All-State last year. This year she went unbeaten in opening round
action of the Santelli tournament and the District 5 tournament. Marissa helped Columbia complete an
11-1 record this past season that ranked second among the girls fencing final top ten. Viqueira, the unani-
mous foil pick was selected 1st Team All-State by the Nl.com/Star-Ledger, Marissa will lead the perennial
Columbia Girls Fencing powerhouse next year!
Jayson, a junior, finished 16-3 in dual meets. He lost just one bout in the opening round of the Cetrulo
tournament and then went 6-1 in the opening round of the District 5 tournament, which he won. Jayson,
whose weapon is epee, was selected 1st Team All-State by the Nl.corn/ Star- Ledger. He has a high school ca-
reer record of 43 wins and 7 losses. We expect Jayson to compete for his 2nd Men of Essex Award next year.
A junior midfielder, [ordyn scored 2 goals and 1 assist in the Essex County championship win over Mont-
clair. The Essex/Union coaches association selected Iordyn 1st Team All- Essex/Union. She was also se-
lected 2nd Team All-State by the Nl.corn/Star-Ledger and selected 3rd Team 2015 Harrow Sport NFHCA
School All-American Team. [ordyn also plays lacrosse and has over 34 career points as of this writing. A
two-sport athlete, the Men of Essex anticipate [ordyn will make a strong bid to return to the Essex Awards
This 6-2, 170 pound wide receiver posed a constant deep threat for the Mounties. Elijah caught 41 recep-
tions for 876 total yards and 11 touchdowns. Robinson helped 3rd ranked Super Essex Conference Mont-
clair to a 5-6 record. Elijah was selected 1st Team All-Group 5 and 1st Team All-Super Essex Conference.
Elijah who served as team Captain will attend Monroe College next fall.
The 6-2, 215 pound inside linebacker had 23 tackles in one game this past season. Paul, a junior, is consid-
ered a blue-chip recruit having multiple offers from top Division 1 colleges including Rutgers University.
Paul had 91 total tackles as he was doubled-teamed on most defensive plays. Theobold was selected 3rd
Team All-State, 1st Team All Non-Public and 1st Team All- Super Essex Conference by the Nl.corn/Star-
Sam, a 3rd Team All-State pick from a year ago, was a model of consistency, especially down the stretch
as he shot 79 to take fourth place at the NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public B sectional tournament. Gold-
enring then fired a 76 to place second at the Non-Public B tournament. His 76 was tied for ninth in the
Tournament of Champions standings.
Amalya, known as a stubborn defender, helped her team to the North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 title and
the Essex County Tournament crown. Johnson, who contributed 15 goals and 1 assist, was selected 2nd
Team All-State, 1st Team All-Group 4 and 1st Team All-Super Essex Conference by the Nl.com/Star-
Ledger. Amalya has been invited to the U18 National Women's Soccer Camp and will attend Columbia
University next fall.
Bound for Monmouth University, John helped his team win 3 national championships. A midfielder, he
was named the Nl.corn Boys Soccer Athlete of Week #7. A three-time team captain, John provided 13
career goals and 15 career assist. Antunes was selected the 2015 N.J. State Prep Player of the Year, the MSG
All- Metro Player of the Year, and the Gatorade State Player of the Year.
The right-hander was named Nl.corn/Star-Ledger State Pitcher of the Year in 2015. Kelsey allowed just
three earned runs all last spring for a 0.13 ERA with 293 strikeouts in 159 innings. She was also a top hitter,
batting .450 with 28 runs and 21 RBI. Kelsey was selected 1st Team All- State and 1st Team All NON-
Public. Oh, a junior, already has 12 wins and 166 strikeouts this season as of this writing.
A 3rd Team All-State by the Nl.corn/Star-Ledger in the 500-yard free-style event, Chris was voted the
most impactful swimmer at the Meet of Champions finals in 2015-2016. Balbo was a USA Swimming
Scholastic All-American Award Winner and a NISCA All-American Award Winner. He received numer-
ous awards including the Cullen Jones (MVP) for Essex County 2016. Chris will continue his great swim-
ming career at The College of William and Mary as a member of the Class of2020.
Stephanie is the Nl.com/Star- Ledger Girls Tennis State Player of the Year for 2015. Schrage didn't drop a
single set in her 27 matches. For her career Stephanie is 76-2 with three Essex County Tournament singles
championships. Her team has won three consecutive Tournament of Champions titles. As the top seed
in the state tournament, Stephanie conceded just 15 games over six tournament matches. Stephanie will
return for her final season next fall.
Noah earned 1st Team All-State honors as half of a duo that reached the finals of the state doubles tour-
nament last season. That tandem spearheaded a Newark Academy squad that went 26-4 and made the
Tournament of Champions semifinals. Noah, the 2-time Essex County champion and two-time All-State
champion will continue his illustrious career at the University of Colorado in the fall.
Reanda won the Indoor Girls Group 2 Championship in the 400m dash event. She was selected 3rd Team
All-State by Nl.corn/Star-Ledger, She finished 6th in the New Balance Nationals 400m dash, as she set a
new school record time of 57:40 seconds. Reanda, a sophomore, also ran anchor as a member of the 4x400
relay team at West Essex. The Men of Essex expect Reanda to compete for another Essex Award in 2017.
Ibtihaj Muhammad - Member, United States Olympic Fencing Team
Ms. Muhammad is the 2003 recipient of the 'Essex Award' representing her alma mater Columbia High School, Maplewood. She is an American sabre fencer and member of the United States fencing team. She is best known for being the first Muslim woman who observes hijab to qualify for the United States Olympic Team.She was born in Maplewood, New Jersey and was raised in a family with four siblings. As a Muslim youth, Muhammad's parents were in search of a sport for her to play where she could be fully covered.
While attending Columbia High School, she joined the fencing team at age 13. In late 2002, Muhammad joined the prestigious Peter Westbrook Foundation, a program which utilizes the sport of fencing as a vehicle to develop life skills in young people from underserved communities. She was invited to train under the Westbrook Foundation's Elite Athlete Program in New York City. She is coached by former PWF student and 2000 Sydney Olympian Ahki Spencer- El. Muhammad attended Duke University, where she received an academic scholarship. She was a 3-time All-American and 2005 Junior Olympic Champion. Muhammad graduated from Duke University in 2007 with an International Relations and African Studies double major.
Chicago Tribune writer Philip Hersch who has covered 17 Olympics describes in glowing terms the journey and challenges faced by Ms. Muhammad as the first American Olympian to don the hijab. Her presence in the 2016 summer Games at a moment when many Muslim-Americans and African-Americans felt threatened and stigmatized in the United States can have a powerful impact. Just making the team, which became official in late January, had given her a platform she readily ascended, whether in her pull-no-punches Twitter comments, Time Magazine, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" or sitting in the tall chair at the media summit. "We're looking for any kind of ray of hope in this frightening atmosphere we are in;' said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations. "She is obviously a very bright ray of hope."
At 30, with bachelor's degrees from Duke in international relations and African studies, fluency in Arabic and five team event medals (one gold, four bronzes) at the World Fencing Championships, Muhammad realizes she has been given the opportunity to direct the conversation toward issues of paramount importance to her, her community and the nation at large. No matter how fatiguing that may be, how much it could possibly distract her attention from fencing at her best in Rio, this is not a chance she will let pass. "I owe it to people who look like me and fight these struggles every day with this fear-mongering and hate we are experiencing;' she said. "I owe it to all of us to combat these notions of bigotry. I have to speak out against it for African-Americans, for other minorities in this country because there are people who did it before me:' And she also had herself to think of.
"I have never questioned myself as an American;' she said. "This is my home. This is who I am. My family has always been here. We're American by birth. "When I hear someone say something like, 'We're going to send Muslims back to their country; it's like, 'Where am I going to go? I'm American. "She has drive and never stops fighting, never gives up, no matter the situation;' said Eliza Stone, part of four-woman U.S. teams including Muhammad that won one gold and two bronze medals in the team saber event at the last three World Fencing Championships. "When I discovered fencing, I was able to be in uniform with my teammates. I wasn't necessarily being acknowledged for my skin or religion; people were focused on my skill set as an athlete;' Ibtihaj Muhammad said. "As a kid, that was very fulfilling to me. "Some people have a very narrow image of who the Muslim woman is;' she said. "I know Muslim women are very, very diverse, especially in the United States. We come in different shapes, colors and sizes, different backgrounds, and we are productive members of society:' This is one of her reasons for starting the clothing company, Louella, to give Muslim women - and others - a chance to express that individuality in apparel that, as its Facebook page says, "delivers a new fresh and vibrant look to the modest fashion industry:'