Renamed environmental awards program now honors two founding Trustees of Hackensack Riverkeeper
Hackensack Riverkeeper, the citizen-steward of the Hackensack River Watershed is pleased to announce it is accepting applications for the 2020 Utzinger-Vellekamp Scholarship. Now in its twentieth year, the program has been renamed to honor the two founding Trustees who died while actively serving on the Hackensack Riverkeeper board.
Begun in 2001 as the Hackensack Riverkeeper Environmental Scholarship, the program was renamed in 2003 to honor late founding Trustee Ronald Vellekamp, who died the previous year. In addition to serving on the Riverkeeper board, Mr. Vellekamp was a science teacher, Scout leader and part-time park ranger. From 2003 through 2019, the Ron Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship awarded a total of $17,000 to some of the most talented and environmentally literate high school graduates in Bergen, Hudson and Rockland counties.
Margaret Utzinger passed away in August 2018, after devoting over a quarter-century to the Hackensack River, first as co-founder of the Hackensack River Coalition in the late 1980s, then as founding Trustee of Hackensack Riverkeeper in 1997. During her twenty-one years on the board, she served two terms as president and remained an active, engaged trustee throughout.
“In many ways during the organization’s early years, Margaret and Ron set the tone for our board and ensured its ongoing focus as Hackensack Riverkeeper’s fiduciary guardian,” recalled Captain Bill Sheehan. “They were great friends, they were thick as thieves and they cared about our river – and its future – as much as anyone could.”
The change was made after consultation with the Utzinger and Vellekamp families, and with the blessings of each. As is previous years and iterations, the Utzinger-Vellekamp Scholarship helps support college-bound high school seniors who excel academically and who have a strong commitment environmental protection.
Seniors at sixty-six high schools in Bergen, Hudson and Rockland Counties are eligible to be nominated by a teacher or guidance counselor for the award. Applications must be postmarked no later than Earth Day, April 22, 2020. A panel of Hackensack Riverkeeper Trustees and staffers led by Captains Sheehan and Carola will review each application and consider the students’ academic achievements, environmental extracurricular activities and future plans. The winner of the $1000 unrestricted award will be announced by June 1, 2020.
Additional information and full application criteria are available by emailing Carola at [email protected]; or by calling him at 201-968-0808.
One important requirement is that all applicants must live within the 210-square mile Hackensack River Watershed and/or attend a school within that region. A list of watershed municipalities is available on Hackensack Riverkeeper’s website. As regards students residing in bi-watershed communities like Paramus, NJ or Orangetown, NY, nominators are cautioned to ensure a student’s eligibility before submitting an application. Copies of the scholarship criteria have already been sent to the Guidance Directors at all sixty-six schools within the region.Those without a graduating senior in the family but who support their local best and brightest students can participate in the program by making a targeted donation to the scholarship fund. Donations to the Utzinger-Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship are tax deductible and can be made by check or online. Fully 100% of all such donations will go to support the fund.