Clifton Merchant Magazine - April 2024

Page 1

Celebrating Teachers

THANKS Gordon Olsen

Print Shop got me “Squared Away” and launched me into this Trade.

By sophomore year in Perth Amboy High School, I knew my future was in printing. Running forms on the AB Dick 360, shooting envelopes through the Multigraph or cranking up an old hand press, I found my future.

Our teacher, Mr. Olsen, was a tough guy, a former Marine and a father figure to some of us. Freshman year he taught the basics—how to hand-set type in a galley and lock it down for printing. We printed posters for the plays, forms for the main office and letterhead for the principal. Mr. Olsen taught us procedures to follow, that deadlines were to be met, and to be “squared away” at work.

My report card showed a “D” in Print Shop—a typo no doubt. Next day I asked Mr. Olsen about the wrong grade. “That’s no typo,” he said. “You’re late. I don’t care how much you come back to help out. Late is late.”

To Mr. Olsen, 7:30 meant be there at 7:20. No coming in looking like you just woke up. Be early. Be sharp. Be ready to work. Be squared away. I got the message.

In sophomore year, print shop was a double period, starting at 7:30 am. I liked the work and the vibe so much I would come back later in the day when I had open periods to finish jobs, listen to Mr. Olsen tell stories, or help clean up. He took a shine to me and I was proud to be in his crew.

But at the end of that first marking period in 1973, Mr. Olsen threw a fast ball and taught a life lesson.

I got “As” in Print Shop every semester, up until my 1975 graduation. Thanks to Mr. Olsen, I learned a trade that would led me to start my business and this magazine. Teachers like Mr. Olsen inspire and often put kids on a path. Here in Clifton, many teachers are doing great work in an ever-changing world. Read about how they innovate and inspire as we celebrate teachers on the following pages.

Contributing Writers

1288 Main Avenue, Downtown Clifton, NJ 07011 973-253-4400 • turn our pages at
Magazines are distributed to hundreds of Clifton Merchants on the first Friday of every month. Subscribe $50 per year or $80 for two Call 973-253-4400
Ariana Puzzo, Joe Hawrylko, Irene Jarosewich, Tom Szieber, Jay Levin, Michael C. Gabriele, Jack DeVries, Patricia Alex © 2024 Tomahawk Promotions follow us on: @cliftonmagazine
& Publisher Tom Hawrylko, Sr. Art Director Ken Peterson Business Mgr. Irene Kulyk Associate Editor & Social Media Mgr. Ariana Puzzo
Editor • April 2024 3


All Teacher Features by Ariana

Lori Lesler’s love of Sign Language has kept her at CHS for the past 30 years.

It’s that love and the lifelong relationships that she’s formed in the building that make preparing to leave Colfax Avenue bittersweet. Lesler, 54, plans to retire in the upcoming 2024-25 school year.

“I’ve always loved coming here every single day. My classroom is unlike any other room in the high school,” said Lesler. “It’s newer looking and has carpeting, and I have walls that are cork boards … with pictures of [former students] since the early 2000s.”

“Some are married with children now. Some are colleagues of mine in this building and other buildings around the district,” she said. Laughing, Lesler added: “I’m going to cry like a baby taking these pictures down.”

Originally from Ohio, Lesler attended Bowling Green State University to become a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Clifton Public Schools hired her in 1994 as an interpreter for an Honor student Brian Berlinski (CHS 1998). She was approached two years later by Renee Blackowski, who was a Child Study Team member before retiring as Clifton’s Director of Special Services.

Lesler recalled how Blackowski wanted to create a

Sign Program based on the needs of one of Clifton’s students, with the understanding that it could go on to benefit a much larger population.

“So we started the program, and it branched out over the years,” said Lesler. “Anyone could take it and, in recent years, it became recognized as a language.”

Real Life Benefits

Lesler estimated that there are now approximately 75 students enrolled in the Sign Program per year. When she teaches, she has always striven to model everything by standing in front of the class and signing to them while having her students sign in return.

There are also many types of projects that underscore the importance of incorporating the entire body as you sign.

“Facial expressions are important in Sign, as well as in conveying messages,” said Lesler. “I try to give projects where they are forced to use their face and body.”

A colleague who helped Lesler take it a step further is her husband, John, who teaches American History II. John acts as an announcer for Clifton athletics and asked if Lesler wanted her students to sign the National Anthem

4 April 2024 •

on the field during the home football games and added that he would announce their names.

Lesler supported the idea and showed her classes examples of interpreters doing the same.

“I asked [the students], ‘Do you want someone here signing like they’re bored, or do you want to make your audience feel it?’” she said.

Lesler lives in Rockaway with husband John (CHS 1991) and the couple have a daughter, Jordyn, 23.

Getting to know her students each year and seeing their excitement about the subject always motivates Lesler. They learn quickly that her’s is not a “notebook and pencil” type of class. It’s also not a class where you can be on your phone.

Once those relationships begin to take shape, Lesler also enjoys when her students come to tell her about their days.

“They will come to tell me a story that is probably not related to me in any way or related to the class, but they feel comfortable to come and talk to me. I love that,” said Lesler. “There are kids who are now married with children that I still have friendships with.”

But by far one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is seeing its real-life application. Lesler often hears from students who work parttime jobs and encounter a customer who may not be able to communicate orally with them.

Their excitement is palpable when they return to the classroom with stories of a customer thrilled to discover that an employee could understand their needs.

“I’ve had that happen a lot over the years,” said Lesler. “My kids aren’t fluent after taking only two years of Sign Language, but they can have a basic conversation and hold their own.” • April 2024 5
At left, Lori Lesler’s class sending love and above, Lori’s husband John who was our cover teacher feature in March 2016.

A Teacher from the Start

When Amanda Rhodes sat behind her very first teacher’s desk, she immediately knew how to reach her students — whether it was her Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids, or talking Julie Doll.

With the help of her calendar, fun pens, and teacher’s books — the third grader was all set.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” said Rhodes, 42. “There has never been a time when I wanted to be anything else.”

Rhodes is currently in her seventh year as a fifth grade teacher at School 11, located at 147 Merselis Ave. Originally from Bloomfield, Rhodes was named the 2023-24 Passaic County Teacher of the Year.

Reflecting on that recognition, Rhodes said that it took a few days to truly absorb the news. Once it did start to sink in, she was left asking herself, “Why me?”

“I love what I do and do it because I want to,” she said. “There was some Imposter Syndrome like, ‘Do I really deserve this?’ but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”

Always Developing

Before working in Clifton Public Schools, Rhodes attended Montclair State University.

She graduated in 2003 with a degree in Human Ecology and a concentration in Early Childhood Education. At that time, she said, there was no option for a degree in Elementary Education. Her career began in Bloomfield as a fourth grade teacher for two years.

Rhodes and her husband, Caleb, started their family soon thereafter. She spent the next 13 years raising boys Matthew (CHS 2023) and Thomas, a WWMS seventh grader. It was when Thomas entered Kindergarten at School 13 that since-retired principal Marilyn Torley encouraged Rhodes, who was School 13’s PTA president, to return to the classroom. “She offered me a maternity leave replacement position from June to the following December,” said Rhodes. “I finished at School 13 one day, and I started at School 11 the next … teaching fourth grade from that December to June. I was hired as a fifth grade teacher for the following year, and I’ve been there ever since.”

6 April 2024 •
Elementary School Teaching High School Teaching Maintenance/Custodial Transportation Special Education Middle School Teaching Volunteers Student Support Services Substitute Teachers Substitute Paraprofessionals Lunch Aides and Kindergarten Aides Preschool Competitive PayRates! C l i f t o n P u b l i c S c h o o l s Clifton Public Schools 745 Clifton Avenue Clifton, NJ 07013 Phone: 973-594-4195 E-mail: hr@cliftonschools net Employment Opportunities The Clifton Public School District is currently accepting applications for the following positions: A p p l y t o d a y a t h t t p s : / / w w w . a p p l i t r a c k . c o m / c l i f t o n s c h o o l s / Applitrack • April 2024 7

Elementary school was always where Rhodes hoped to land. She always enjoyed spending time with children — whether it was playing with her brother and cousins or babysitting once she was old enough — and originally had her sights set on teaching second graders.

Despite thinking fifth grade would be a stretch, she loves teaching that age group now.

“Teaching them is a lot more in depth and the kids are more challenged. I’m able to use and build on what they have already learned,” said Rhodes. “I can give them more hands-on projects since they are more independent.”

Rhodes strives to take their interests into consideration as well. She started the year exploring her students’ interest in the U.S. presidents by instructing them to select one to research. The students created a new currency about their president, incorporating the facts and what they learned about symbolism.

Two individuals who have helped to inform Rhodes of the type of educator she wants to be are School 11 fourth grade inclusion teacher Courtney Sprechini and Rhodes’ husband, Caleb, who is the principal of Belleville High School.

“When I last taught, we used overhead projectors. Now there were SMART Boards on the walls and the curriculum had changed,” said Rhodes. “She was helpful and patient with me. If I have a question, she’s one of the people who I go to first.”

As for Caleb, Rhodes credited him for helping her develop as a teacher “all the time.”

“[Talking with him] reminds me that my students are someone’s kids,” said Rhodes. “When I think of my kids and what I want them to experience every day, I remember that someone is trusting me with their children. It becomes: ‘How can I make sure they’re having the best day possible?’”

Staying in Touch

Lasting relationships make teaching worthwhile for Rhodes. She still talks to many former students who return to visit or write emails to her. A former student Judah Portillo (CHS 2026) mentioned her as an influential teacher for this magazine’s November 2023 Mustangs of the Month round-up.

“I love to see them grow and change, to hear their stories, and to see who they become,” said Rhodes. “It’s fun to see them grow and become … contributing people in our world.”

It’s that sense of community — as well as feeling supported by her school and district — that keeps the Athenia resident as an educator in our city.

“I love the diversity of our town. I think it’s great to have so many people who were born in other countries,” said Rhodes. “It adds to our time together, because we can talk about things they’re experiencing and I think it makes my teaching even better.”

8 April 2024 •
Amanda Rhodes accepting her Teacher of the Year award with the School 11 staff and BOE members. At left, the Rhodes family: Amanda with sons Matthew and Thomas, husband Caleb, and parents Bob and Lane Szuhany. • April 2024 9

A Love of LearningLanguagesand

Olga Figol knew where the personal and professional bar should be set from an early age.

One of Figol’s earliest experiences working with youth was at the Ukrainian American Youth Association in Passaic. She started out as a member and progressed through different roles, including Junior Counselor, then a Counselor, Head Teacher, and President of the Youth Group.

Knowing that she was good at what she did made her consider pursuing a career in teaching. She also had an exceptional role model.

“My mother was a teacher,” said Figol, 53. “When she immigrated [to the U.S.] she was not a teacher, because she didn’t have the language. If I can be half the woman my mother is, that would be an honor.”

John and Antonina Zielonka each emigrated from Ukraine after they were forced out of their country and into areas under Poland. They met in the U.S. and wed in 1966. The couple had three children: Helen Klics, Figol, and Peter Zielonka.

Figol was born and raised in Clifton. She attended St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School in Passaic, Christopher Columbus for ninth grade, and graduated with the CHS Class of 1988.

Today, Figol lives in Wallington with her husband, Pawlo, of 25 years. The couple are parents to three children: Zakhar, 22, Orest, 21, and Kalyna, 18. Figol teaches as an ESL teacher at East Side High School in Newark.

“Being able to teach and impact people and make a difference in their lives is important to me,” said Figol. “I knew I couldn’t sit behind a desk.”

Figol graduated from Rutgers – Newark with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Business Administration, plus her K-12 certification. She later earned her master’s in Applied Linguistics and received her ESL certification from Montclair State. Figol is further certified as an administrator.

Thirty years spent teaching in Newark have seen her at Avon Avenue School for seven years, Barringer High

School for 13 years, and the past decade at East Side. “I feel like being on the frontline working with the students, there’s just a feeling that we’re making a difference,” said Figol.

Breaking Down Barriers

Figol was raised in a bilingual household — and she went on with Pawlo, who’s from Montreal, to raise her children in a multilingual household.

“All three of our kids are bilingual. They can read and write the Cyrillic alphabet,” said Figol. “I tell them all the time that their first language was Ukrainian, not English.”

The “plethora of education” provided Figol with a unique outlook on life and underscored her core belief that you must work hard in order to succeed. She saw that work ethic in John and Peter as they grew their business Precision Electric Motor Works, at 18 Sebago St. for 20 years.

It’s an immigrant success story. And so the first lesson that Figol strives to teach her students is the value of receiving an education.

“Unfortunately, your mother or your father can pass away. Anything physical can be stolen,” said Figol. “One thing that no one can ever take away from you is your education.”

10 April 2024 •
Olga Figol with her mom, Antonina Zielonka, her first teacher. • April 2024 11

The other lesson that she teaches is that being bilingual is a positive, not a negative. She notes that the students will encounter obstacles — whether it’s beginning with a journey to the United States or reuniting with parents who came years earlier and now facing an adjustment period.

“What I try to do is break down the barriers that these kids are coming in with,” said Figol. “I’m very big on climate and culture in my classroom. I let my students know that I am here to help you and you are important to me.”

Part of that is as fundamental as knowing their names by the end of the first day of classes. The other component is continued motivation and reminding them that persevering will help them to achieve their dreams in a new country.

These lessons reach about 130 kids per day across five self-contained classes.

“This is where I feel I have a lasting impression on future generations … as immigrants come here and go through the Newark School system, as far as students in my classes,” said Figol. “Don’t worry if your English isn’t perfect,” she added. “It just means you know more than one language.”

Even after each year’s class moves on, Figol sees the

rewards because she still sees the kids. She sees them in the hallway and others keep in contact with her after graduating. Many have also sent her cards of support since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine War two years ago.

“I really enjoy what I do,” said Figol. “I love working with children.”

Pawlo and Olga Figol with Zakhar, Orest, and Kalyna. • April 2024 13

A Leatherneck with a Soft Touch for Teaching ESL

Luke Walsh appreciated his life growing up in New Jersey. Paying that gratitude forward to his country and to future generations seemed only natural.

Walsh, 32, spent his youth in Fair Lawn and started working as an ESL Teacher at Clifton High School this past September. He is currently in his second semester at William Paterson University with one more year ahead of him before he obtains his full certification.

The Fair Lawn resident is also a 2014 graduate of the US Naval Academy.

“I had a desire to serve my country in some form and I wanted to go to

college at the same time,” said Walsh. “I figured, this is perfect. I could get commissioned as an officer to serve my country, and there was only a five-year commitment after the fact.”

“The Academy, in my opinion, is the top of the line where challenges go,” he continued. “I wanted to try and challenge myself and go the harder route to see if I could do it. I was fortunate enough to get [accepted].”

Years in Service

Walsh was commissioned in May of 2014 into the US Marine Corps as a second lieutenant. Although he could have opted to join the US Navy — generally only one quarter of

14 April 2024 • • April 2024 15

the 1,000 graduates go into the Marine Corps — he knew that he didn’t want to spend long stretches of time on a ship. He also valued the Corps’ “storied history of great traditions and great values.”

The Marine was promoted from second to first lieutenant after two years and then roughly two and a half years later, he was promoted to captain for his last six months of service. Before he finished his service in May of 2019, Walsh was a Supply Officer with the 8th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

During his time at the base, he worked logistics in a warehouse and was responsible for the finances of the unit.

“Every battalion and unit has a budget. I was part of making sure that we were spending our money properly on different training,” said Walsh. “That meant ordering parts for weapons, trucks, and radios.”

Walsh estimated that the Logistics Center of the battalion ordered $3 million in parts per annum. The other key responsibility was maintaining the items, which had a total value of $300 million.

On the one occasion that Walsh was deployed in 2018, he spent roughly 10 months in Spain. During his deployment, he also undertook a translating mission and was sent to Togo in West Africa owing to his ability to speak French. “I speak many languages,” he said. “It’s why I teach ESL right now.”

Embracing Cultures

After serving out his time in the military, Walsh spent four years working for Hitt Contracting and built everything from Amazon warehouses to doctors offices.

Despite now putting his Ocean Engineering degree to good use, one simple fact remained: He wanted to teach. After leaving Hitt in March of 2023, he began pursuing an alternate route and learned about an opening at CHS.

Walsh started the school year with 70 students, now teaching 100 students across five class periods. Ten languages are spoken in his classes and he teaches students from 18 different countries.

“I love to mentor and act as a role model for them,” said Walsh. “Some of the kids [aren’t living with] their parents and I have become more than a teacher.”

“I tell them, ‘I’m only 32, so you can’t be my kids,’” he laughed. “‘But I look at you all as a younger sibling.’”

Despite growing numbers, Walsh acknowledged that “Clifton does an excellent job maintaining” since they cannot turn away students. The teacher strives each day to make his classes as fun and interesting as possible.

That may mean focusing one week on American slang by studying hip hop and rap videos and trying to dissect their meaning, then delving into American sports for the following week.

“We focus on grammar, of course, but it’s not just the language. It’s the culture as well,” said Walsh. “It’s ‘hey, you’re living here now, so let’s learn about it.’”

Technology is a major component in the classroom, with students using Google Chromebooks to see their native language and the English translations side-by-side. Walsh added that he puts the translations onto the SmartBoard so that everyone can see their language at the same time.

“We also put the computers away … and I encourage my kids to speak in their languages,” he said. “I tell them to read a sentence in English and then back in [their] language … to make the connection in [their] brain. It’s important to hear both back-to-back to truly bridge the gap.”

Walsh and his wife, Fatima, are expecting a daughter in June. As the teacher considers the future for his professional career, he hopes to stay in Clifton for the long term.

“My kids are great, he said. “When they say, ‘Thank you’, which is pretty often, it makes me feel good. They don’t necessarily say that to every teacher.”

The rewarding feeling is not unlike Walsh’s experience at the Academy, where he and other midshipmen volunteered through Mids for Kids to tutor local elementary students.

“It shows me that they’re acknowledging how much work I put in with them,” he added. “I think a lot of that appreciation comes from … including all their languages and not erasing their cultures or identities.”

16 April 2024 •
CHS teacher and former US Marine Lt. Luke Walsh and his wife Fatima at the Marine Ball in Washington. • April 2024 17

CHS Unified Club

Finding and forming meaningful friendships in high school can have its share of challenges for any student. But that experience is made better when there are educators like Susan Schemly and Yelena Vayner who help create positive and inclusive environments.

Schemly, who is a school psychologist, and Vayner, a Learning Disabilities teacher consultant, both work at the high school and are coaches for the CHS Unified Club’s basketball team. The Unified Club is in its second year at CHS and its basketball team consists of students with and without intellectual and physical disabilities.

It isn’t the first Unified Program that’s made its way to Clifton Public Schools. Retired teacher Carla Rodriguez introduced the program to WWMS over a decade ago. Separately, Schemly started thinking about what it could mean for CHS students after seeing her own daughter as a Unified athlete in Wayne Hills and how she played other schools in real games with referees.

“I came into the office and said, ‘We have to do this here,’” said Schemly. “Yelena was totally on board.” Vayner confirmed as much, adding, “Our students need extracurricular activities where they can be included and play with others, and it’s so much fun. I thought it would be a great thing to have here.”

Schemly, 45, is a Wayne native who studied Psychology at Rutgers before attending Montclair for her master’s

and certification in School Psychology. She started out at WWMS in 2006 and was moved up to CHS in 2009 as a member of a child study team.

Born in Ukraine, Vayner and her family immigrated to the U.S. in 1998. She graduated from William Paterson with a desire to become a Special Education teacher. Vayner later went to Montclair to become a Learning Consultant and joined a Clifton child study team in 2007. In 2019, she moved up to the high school.

Together, the coaches are eager to give their athletes a chance to reach their unique potentials.

“I think our expectations have changed [over the past two years],” said Vayner, 39. “The kids come with such a variety of skills and abilities. I think at first we took it easy to see what they could do — and they can do so much. We know they’re able and capable of so much.”

New Opportunities

In mid-February, CHS parent Veronica Amati reached out to us about the team and all it does for teenagers with intellectual or physical disabilities.

Amati, who we previously featured in our February 2020 edition, sees the benefits firsthand. She is the mother of Renzo, a senior at CHS who attends the Special Education program and is part of the Unified Club. “It’s not easy to find opportunities for [our teenagers] to social-

18 April 2024 • • April 2024 19

ize with the neurotypical population in a safe environment,” said Amati. “They want to participate in school events [and] they want to be included. The Unified Club has done that.”

The club exposes students to other sports as well. Last fall, members of the Varsity Boys Soccer team ran a clinic with scrimmages for club members. They also play softball and lacrosse, and in the future hope to pursue bowling and bocce.

It’s not all about sports either.

“Some of our colleagues are now doing a Talent Show with the Unified kids and mentors are helping the kids put on the Talent Show,” said Schemly. “They help them to practice and with make-up or costumes. We’re always looking for more ways to push into the mainstream environment.”

The most rewarding part for Vayner is when people come up to them after a game or a talent show and say, “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen” or “This is wonderful.”

“Our answer is, ‘We know,’” Vayner chuckled.

First Steps

Schemly is thrilled by how many more mentors the club gained in its second year. There were two or three reliable mentors last year. This academic year, they almost have a 1:1 ratio.

The club has 24 kids overall who come to practices and 14 athletes who play and travel to other schools. The basketball team hosted four schools and played five away games this year.

“So many more general education students want to come support us and be helpful and there is a lot of support from staff,” said Schemly. “The Voice of the Mustangs John Lesler announced the games and reached out to the cheerleaders and ASL Club, who signed the National Anthem.”

It starts by making an effort to talk to people, even if it doesn’t feel natural at first. “Our kids here have just as many interests and things to share. They want to be included like anyone else. That’s universal for everyone,” said Vayner. “Others see that more once they start a conversation. Ask them to sit with you at lunch or talk to them in class.”

20 April 2024 •
Susan Schemly and Yelena Vayner • April 2024 21

All Work, Plenty of Play

Giving back and staying in your hometown are two of the most important decisions that Anthony Goglia believes anyone can make. Doing both has allowed the former Mustang to share his love of sports with younger generations of future student athletes.

“Clifton is great at so many different sports. It’s a diverse community and there are so many opportunities now,” said Goglia, the WWMS Sports Site Director. “At the high school, there is Flag Football now for girls, which is great. We have soccer, baseball, football, and wrestling. There are different things offered for every kid.”

Goglia, 38, is in his second year as a site director. During his 14 years working in Clifton, he has witnessed facilities improvements like the new turf field at WWMS. Goglia originally started in the district teaching five health classes at the since-closed CHS Annex.

After that first year, he was transferred to WWMS full time. He taught two health classes and four physical education classes. Goglia additionally coached the 8th grade boys basketball team for nine years.

But before he motivated his players, he was in some of their positions — sports positions, that is. Goglia grew up in the Montclair Heights section and attended School 16, WWMS, and graduated with the CHS Class of 2003. He was point guard on the Boys Basketball team for his first three years and made Varsity in his junior year.

Goglia went on to Caldwell College, where he briefly majored in Business before realizing he needed something else. He transferred to MSU and earned his bachelor’s

degree in Physical Education and Health. Goglia later received a Master’s in Health from Jersey City and went to Seton Hall for his administrative classes in Educational Leadership.

“I loved Phys Ed growing up,” said Goglia. “I never had a bad Phys Ed teacher [and] looked up to them. So I just knew if I’m going to go to college, let me pursue something that I’m interested in.”

Goglia encountered many influential physical education educators in his youth and later as an adult. Two of his mentors when he started at Woodrow Wilson were Patty Dykstra, the former head of WWMS’ department, and Jim Denaples. Both of them taught Physical Education and Health for roughly 40 years.

“I had [Patty and Jim] as a kid. Jim, I had as a first grader and then worked with him side-by-side at Woodrow,” said Goglia. “Clifton has a lot of great teachers that I developed friendships with. It is even more meaningful when they taught you in the past.”

Healthy and Active Living

Goglia recognizes his unique position with middleschool-aged student athletes.

“You have a lot of power over a kid in sixth grade. It’s when sports get competitive,” he said. “A lot of kids that play middle school sports, it is possibly the first time they are playing organized sports or competitively.”

It’s also about knowing how to meet the kids where they might be at that moment. Goglia knows that

22 April 2024 • • April 2024 23

getting through to every student isn’t possible. It is about reaching as many as you can and hoping that they take that guidance and run with it.

“If I’m able to get through to 10 kids that appreciated my quotes or my advice that I’ve given them,” said Goglia, “then that is good for me.”

“I tell kids you may not like Phys Ed and working out but, if you want to stay healthy, you have to do it. Something is better than nothing,” he continued. “You may hate playing basketball, but go choose something else. Stay active and healthy.”

Goglia re-emphasized how there are so many new options to choose from nowadays. The program and facility upgrades are “huge for our sports that we do after school” and support “diverse learners” in Clifton.

Goglia lives in Montville with his wife, Melissa, who teaches 8th grade science at WWMS, and his step-daughter Aria, 13, and son Marco, 5, all seen at right. His future aspirations are to continue doing his part at WWMS and someday work on the administrative level.

“The administration at Woodrow is outstanding and always very supportive. And the best part of the job is our staff. I am surrounded by nine other Phys Ed teachers... and we get along great. Everyone helps out one another.”

24 April 2024 • • April 2024 25

Four Decades of Coaching

Sports interested Annemarie Montesinos Tate from an early age. But the CHS 1968 grad’s high school experience could not have differed more from that of her future students.

“When I went to Clifton High, there were no sports for girls,” said Tate, 73. “There was only Cheerleading and the Majorettes. I didn’t go out for either one of them.”

College provided more opportunities for the former Mustang. Tate received an associate’s degree at Middlesex County College and later her bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Health at Montclair State. During those years, she participated in basketball, tennis, cheerleading, and she even considered pursuing higher-level gymnastics for a period of time.

Similar athletic opportunities began trickling down to the high school level following President Richard Nixon’s signing of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act into law in June of 1972. After Tate’s college graduation and her starting a family with then-husband and former Fighting Mustang Richard Tate, she found herself in a new environment when she began teaching in 1981.

Tate started in Clifton Public Schools at School 5. She overall taught Physical Education at half a dozen elementary schools and spent the majority of her career at CCMS and CHS. Tate retired six years ago this June after 36 years. But she’s currently still employed by the district and has coached Girls Tennis for over 40 years.

“I still coach [Junior Varsity] today and I really like JV, because you get a lot of kids who are just beginners or don’t know about the sport,” said Tate. “It’s a difficult sport to learn how to score in, because there’s no rhyme or reason. A lot of kids don’t get it, but they learn as they go along.”

Tate has witnessed many excellent Mustang tennis players over the years. Despite not playing on the JV team, Tate watched with the rest of Clifton as CHS Hall of Famer Keiko Tokuda (CHS 1998) ranked 10th in the USA for girls U-18, 650th in the world, and then played the junior circuit U.S. Open, French Open, and Wimbledon.

Other stand-out Mustangs were sisters Lisa Bobby and Andrea Bobby, the latter of whom retired in 2018 as the

Clifton head boys tennis coach after 28 seasons. A current memorable player is CHS senior Anias Jenkins, who placed first in Passaic County Counties three years in a row — with the only exception due to the coronavirus pandemic canceling her freshman year Counties.

“There have been a lot of nice kids,” said Tate. “A lot of good kids who have gone through the program.”

Immense Gratitude

Mastering the techniques of any sport is necessary, but Tate further emphasized the importance of conveying the psychology.

“Mentally, a lot of players lose it and that’s where they have problems,” said Tate. “They have the techniques and skills and are ready for the physical part, but mentally sometimes they’re just not there. I try to teach them to take a breath and start over.”

“Take it one point at a time. You can’t do anything about the points before,” she added. “Now is the time to exert yourself … and keep it in play. Let [your opponent] make the mistakes.”

Despite spending much of her career with teenagers, Tate found working with elementary-aged kids was highly rewarding. Whether it’s teaching them about the rules of a game or back when they used to teach line dancing, the enthusiasm was always present.

“Those kids really want to learn,” she said. “They love to play.”

Tate remains a Clifton resident and is mother to Jennifer (Tate) Bryce and Richard James Tate. She has two grandchildren: Emma Bryce, a 9th grade biomed student at PCTI, and WWMS 7th grader Evan Bryce, who hopes to play soccer at CHS.

Gratitude is what Tate feels most for her continued ability to coach at CHS.

“I really love Clifton High School,” she said. “Our Athletic Director Tom Mullahey is terrific and Principal Ahmad Hamdeh is fantastic. We’ve had some really good people here. When you’re teaching, your administration is so important. It helps when you get along with everybody.”

26 April 2024 •
Kindergarten Registration Pre-School Registration
Go Online To Register Charter, Parochial, and Non-Public School Transfer Student Registration 2024-2025
child residing in Clifton who is 3 or 4 years of
on or before October 1, 2024, is eligible for Preschool. Availability is on a first-come, first-serve basis upon completion of the entire registration process. For questions, please call 973-470-2060 Clifton PUBLIC SCHOOLS
child residing in Clifton who is 5 years of age on or before October 1, 2024, is eligible for Kindergarten. Required documents and details can be found at: Registration Español ﻰﺑﺮﻋ Türk українська
child residing in Clifton is eligible to attend Clifton Public Schools free of charge. • April 2024 27
JUNCTION RT 46 & RT 3 • CLIFTON, NJ FORD & KIA: 973.779.7000 • INFINITI: 973.743.3100 SALES: Mon-Thurs: 9am-7pm, Fri: 9am-6pm, Sat: 9am-6pm • SERVICE: Mon-Thurs: 7:30am-7pm, Fri: 7:30am-6pm, Sat: 7am-3pm THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING US TO SERVE YOU! FETTE AUTO GROUP Contact our Service Department at: 973-685-4158 LARGE SELECTION OF PRE-OWNED VEHICLES WE SERVICE ALL MAKES & MODELS! Per Month for 24 Months • $3,499 Down Lease For$177 FORTE LXS STK# 24K85. Offer shown based on $3,499 down, plus $177 first monthly payment, $650 acquisition fee, plus tax, title, license and registration fees. No security deposit required. Offer shown total lease payments are $4,248. Purchase option at lease-end $14,881.80. Lessee is responsible for insurance, maintenance, repairs, $.20 per mile over 10,000 miles/year, excess wear, and a $400 termination fee*. To qualifying candidates with approved credit through Kia Finance America (KFA). Per Month for 39 Months • $5,469 Down Lease For $329 New 2023 FORD MUSTANG MACH-E GT CROSSOVER STK 23T410, VIN# 3FMTK4SE8PMA38389, M.S.R.P. $55,384. Residual $25,704, 10,500 miles per year, $5,469 down + $448 first month payment = $5,917 due at signing plus tax and motor vehicle fees. Price includes $645 bank fee + $694 documentation fee. 0 Security Deposit. Lessee responsible for excess wear and mileage over 21,000 miles at $0.20 per mile. Lessee has option to purchase a vehicle at lease end at price negotiated with dealer at signing. Per Month for 36 Months • $4,988 Down For 499 QX60 PURE AWD Stock#24QX81, VIN#RC340225. Well-qualified lessees lease a new 2024 QX60 PURE FWD for $499/Month for 36 Mos. To qualifying candidates with approved credit, residency restrictions apply. MSRP $51,770.00. Residual: $34,168.20. $4,988 cash down, plus tax, title, $694 doc fee and dealer fees. $0.25 per mile for mileage over 10,000 miles per yr. While supplies last. Offer subject to change without notice. The dealer is not responsible for typos. Price includes all Factory rebates and Factory incentives to qualifying candidates with approved credit. Doc fee of $694 not included on all offers. See dealer for complete details, Offer ends 04/30/2024. • April 2024 29

CAST Film Festival at 25

The 25th Annual CAST Film Festival is an exciting tradition for students and their families that Michael McCunney knows will carry on for years to come.

“The festival is a really exciting fundraiser for the Clifton Education Foundation,” said McCunney, the CAST II and III teacher. “The fact that the money goes back into school while students have fun producing their own films — what more can we ask for?”

In the Fall of 1999, the late Robert Zschack had a similar thought. Zschack, along with the late Marie Hakim, was a lifelong resident with deep ties to Clifton Public Schools who later became co-founder of the Clifton Education Foundation.

McCunney, 57, recalled how Zschack came to him in his second year as the CAST teacher and pitched the idea of pulling students’ best work to create a film festival fundraiser that benefits the CEF. McCunney was immediately on board and started working with the upper-level students to improve the films more and more each year. He added that many student producers have looped in the CAST I and drama students for a fuller community experience.

30 April 2024 •

This year’s festival is May 1 at JFK Auditorium starting at 7 pm. Admission is $10 and children 12 and under are $5. The event is open to the public.

“I love working with the [CEF],” said McCunney. “They’re instrumental and helpful in putting the film festival together … with ticket sales and by promoting. This year, they are … trying to get sponsors to raise money. The idea is to raise money for the CEF, so we try to do our part by making good films.”

CAST alumni are also getting involved. McCunney has asked former students to send messages and memories of their times in the program and plans to show clips from old film festival projects.

There’ll also be a reception in K-3 prior to the festival. One former CAST student who hopes to attend is film director and screenwriter Ron Maxwell (CHS 1964). Maxwell is known for writing and directing the 1993 American Civil War historical fiction film Gettysburg. “I’ve been the beneficiary of wonderful tutors,” said Maxwell. “So I have long felt the duty to carry on the tradition.”

Those in attendance can expect to walk down the red carpet and take photos in front of a Step & Repeat banner. McCunney credited the conception of these lighthearted details that jazz up the festival to CAST I teacher Joanna Huster (CHS 2017), who thought of them, and acknowledged the CEF for funding the ideas.

“I’m not planning on leaving any time soon,” McCunney clarified. “But when I do, I know Joanna, CHS, and the district will really continue with this film festival.”

Always Humming

Born just south of Cherry Hill, McCunney got his start at William Paterson by earning his degree in Communications. He worked in the industry for about eight years doing freelance assignments and different productions through the country’s first regional sports network SportsChannel and with MSG.

When someone suggested that McCunney consider teaching, he laughed it off at first.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea,” he said, “but then there were a number of interns working with us on a show that we did for MSG and I noticed that I was teaching them.”

McCunney — who is father to Kathleen, Brendan, and MaryKate — talked it over with his wife of nearly 31 years, Maura. Through her encouragement, McCunney attended The College of New Jersey to obtain his certification and become a Teacher of Television and Technology. He taught for three years in Parsippany until joining the Clifton

School District in 1998. But the CAST program significantly predates him.

Frank A. Perrotta, who moved on to become a Director of Technology in Clifton, started the program in 1979. There are three different years of the program — Huster, a CAST alumna, teaches roughly 125 students across the five classes of CAST I. McCunney teaches three classes of CAST II (22 students per class) and one CAST III Honors class with 30 students. “We have classes five days per week, and the studio is humming for all eight periods,” he said.

Opening the Door

Alumni that we’ve connected with over the years have fond memories of the Morning Show put on by CAST. Unlike the PA announcements in elementary or middle schools, students audition and rotate for the opportunity to make morning announcements via television.

“We really took it to a whole new level with the weather, sports, and two anchors to deliver the announcements,” said McCunney. “Students go out and do interviews and there are little news segments that we roll into the show.”

McCunney added that CAST is in the process of undergoing a “facelift”, with new equipment that the “Board of Education was so gracious to supply.” He continued, saying how they had not done a full upgrade since the studio officially opened in 1998.

Going from the old, standard definition televisions into high definition needed to be a full jump. “We’re not connected to the cable system right now but I’d like to get back on Cable Television with these kids,” said McCunney. “Plenty of people still watch Cable.”

Aside from broadcasting on Channel 77, recent years saw the creation of a YouTube channel. The @CHSTVCAST channel has over 1,400 subscribers. It averages roughly 200 to 300 views per day depending on the show.

“On Valentine’s Day, we had over 600 [views] on the show with cute segments that the students produced,” said McCunney. “When we do holiday shows, we tend to get a lot of viewers.”

Whether it’s during the morning shows or producing their own films, McCunney thinks the ability for students to showcase their creativity in CAST entices many of them.

“Some may come in with ideas or some may create short films at home and not tell anyone about them. That’s so much a part of CAST. We open the door,” said McCunney. “I say to the parents at back-to-school night — we open the door and steer the students, but it is their creativity that runs CAST and creates what we have here.” • April 2024 31


Six Passaic County Technical Institute students and one independent filmmaker from Clifton submitted films to the 20th Annual Passaic County Film Festival. Admission is free to the film festival on April 27 at 11 am at the PCCC Public Safety Academy, 300 Oldham Rd., Wayne.

Entrants must attend school, live or work in Passaic County, and they must film their submission in Passaic County. Film entries must be 10 minutes in length or less. The festival’s featured film categories are General Short Film, Public Service Announcement, Documentary Short Film, or Music Video and Performance.

In 2023, PCTI student Hana Tripathee won 1st Place for a high school music video and PCTI student Elian Saldivar took home 2nd Place for a high school PSA. Both students submitted projects again this year.

“Every year, I ask the students to come up with ideas for a documentary or a narrative,” said PCTI film teacher Jody Lazarski. “Before I take them to Garret Mountain … they pitch me ideas. Sometimes they know [what they want to do], sometimes it takes work to develop it.”

Lazarski, who has taught at PCTI since November 2015, added that the students collaborate on the field trip and every student has a piece to edit by the end. One of Lazarski’s idea-pitching techniques is for students to film what they know.

“It turns around plenty of great pieces, I think. Maybe they never expected to do something all by themselves, but schools will be looking at that for college,” said Lazarski. “Now they have a piece they can say is theirs.”

32 April 2024 •

Matthew Mendoza, PCTI Junior

Clifton is a great place to live — just ask Matthew Mendoza. The high school junior’s documentary, “Clifton: My Hometown” takes viewers around important places in the community. Mendoza, 17, shot footage at Mario’s Restaurant, Clifton Memorial Park, Garret Mountain, Clifton Memorial Library, and the Clifton City Hall Complex.

Among those that he interviewed were resident and PCTI classmate Mikael Simon, Memorial Library Director Justine Tomczak, and Clifton Police Officer Kevin Collucci.

means a lot to me, because it’s obviously where I grew up, but I also have a very big family and most of them live in the Clifton area.”

“I decided to feature Clifton, because I have lived here for my entire life,” said Mendoza. “My hometown

“I love Clifton,” he continued, “because there’s a lot of things to do and see, and I feel safe.”

Mendoza’s interest in filmmaking has grown over the past year. He originally planned to pursue a culinary track when he entered high school, but selected video production when he learned that the other majors were full.

“A lot of the interest has been from my teacher pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and making me realize that making films is fun and a good learning process,” said Mendoza. • April 2024 33

Getting out of his comfort zone meant filming around the city and interviewing two people, previously strangers. It was Mendoza’s first time interviewing someone, but he said that doing them allowed him to grow more comfortable.


He also saw personal development as he learned to plan more when he makes shot sheets, storyboards, and schedules interviews. Mendoza additionally learned by practice how to shoot multiple shots or take photos.

“It’s important to have a lot of footage in case you need it later in editing,” he said. “At the start of this year, I was pretty new to editing. But after making this film, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable and better at the whole process.”

Mendoza submitted “Clifton: My Hometown” to the Garden State Film Festival and it was screened on March 23 in Asbury Park. At the present moment, Mendoza isn’t sure whether he will pursue video production in college.

“I still have to figure out if I [want] to pursue filmmaking in college,” he said. “If I do, I will try to make a career as a producer.”

Brenna Vazquez, PCTI Junior Dance is what Brenna Vazquez has known since the age of 3. Her film “Life as a Dancer” is a documentary that showcases the struggles and fun aspects of the art form.

“Dance is so underrated, and people think that it’s not hard or challenging,” said Vazquez, 16. “But in reality, dance can be really hard and can put a lot of stress on the body and mind.”

Vazquez primarily shot her documentary at PCTI but she included clips from The Red Room Studio, 605 Van Houten Ave. She interviewed three people for the film, including city resident Angie Perez. The lifelong resident never considered filmmaking until her sister told her about what PCTI offers its students.

Her future plans include attending a four-year college and majoring in either Nursing or Dance. She added that filmmaking will be a future hobby.

“Life as a Dancer” is not Vazquez’s first film festival submission. She and her friends Dylan Lewis and Tania Zarate created a music video last year, entitled, “Kingston” which won 3rd Place at the Passaic County Film Festival.

The most challenging part of the film process was get-

ting good B-roll. Vazquez’s solution was recording her friends dancing during their individual practices.

“I believe I did grow in the [filmmaking] process,” said Vazquez, “because last year, I wasn’t really into filmmaking. But now this year, I got more intrigued and started to get better at filmmaking.”

Elian Saldivar, PCTI Senior

Elian Saldivar has plenty of gratitude. The senior thanks his parents for “always supporting me with films and projects” and his video production teachers. “Mrs. Lazarski was always willing to listen to me and allowed me to bring multiple projects to life, including “Tech Showcase” and my very own Valentine’s Day trivia show “Bee Mine”, which I hope to eventually continue and develop after I graduate.”

Saldivar, 18, created his multimedia/internet project “Tech Showcase” to highlight the performing arts students from the PCTI Mary Poppins Musical. His second submission is “Performing Arts PSA”, which brings awareness to funding in the arts.

“Having been a part of the performing arts all throughout elementary to high school, I wanted to show the talent that many students have,” said Saldivar. “I believe that having and funding arts in school [give] students the ability to … express themselves and have some fun.”

Filmmaking came on Saldivar’s radar in eighth grade when deciding what he wanted to apply for as his Career and Technical Education. But he even recalls family holidays with his cousins when everyone would write and film short skits.

Saldivar plans to study Journalism or Sports Communication at a university. By mid-February, he was accepted to MSU, Dean College, and Emerson College for Sports Communications. He was accepted to Penn State for their Telecommunications and Media Studies program.

Saldivar’s 2023 projects “Hawthorne Shade Tree PSA” and “Over This Reality” respectively won 2nd Place for PSA at the Film Festival and received script recognition at Montclair’s Emerging Screenwriters competitions. “Hawthorne” was screened at the Garden State Film Festival.

“My dream career? Working in Sports Broadcasting for television,” he said, “but I would also eventually, if possible, like to open a video production company.”

34 April 2024 •
Brenna Vazquez and Elian Saldivar. • April 2024 35

Mikael Simon, PCTI Junior

Hardwork and determination helped Mikael Simon overcome a significant filmmaking obstacle.

“The most challenging part of this year’s project was starting over,” said Simon, 16. “I lost almost all of my footage with about two weeks left until the project was due but I was able to get my project turned in on time despite my obstacles.”

Simon’s film submission is entitled “Dominicans United”. The documentary’s logline was: “With Dominican Roots and Passaic County Branches, teens discuss what it means to grow up with Dominican descent.”

The film’s purpose is to highlight the different aspects of life that Dominican teens go through. Simon shot all of his scenes on his school’s campus and decided to feature Clifton, because one of the students interviewed was a city resident and Clifton has a significant Dominican population.

The junior’s previous submission to the Passaic County Film Festival was entitled “COVID PSA” in 2022. At the time, he said he wanted to understand the dangers of the virus despite the challenging and oftentimes divisive topic.

Freshman year marked Simon’s first year that he was interested in filmmaking. He saw it was an available option at his high school and decided to take advantage of it. Like he told us two years ago, he does not intend to pursue filmmaking beyond high school.

“I plan to attend college,” said Simon. “However, I do not know what I want to do yet.”

When considering the overall filmmaking process, he identified personal growth in multiple areas.

“I learned how to film, edit, and interview better,” said Simon.

Szymon Sudol, PCTI Junior

Balancing personal connection and objectivity was one of Szymon Sudol’s main objectives for his Film Festival submission.

“Europolityk” is Sudol’s submission for the Documentary category that strives to explain “Russia’s geopolitical impact on not only Europe but the world” as it relates to its alliances, economy, and culture. Sudol’s “personal connection to the areas affected by Russia’s war” informed part of his decision to create the documentary.

Sudol added that he possesses a general interest in European political affairs. After high school, he has several endeavors that he wishes to explore.

“I hope to pursue an education in economics, as well as strive for an opportunity to continue my fencing athletic career at the divisional level,” said Sudol, 17.

Filmmaking is not viewed as a hobby by the junior, but he has tried his hand at photography. He particularly enjoys analyzing and breaking down films “for their stylistic choices and production.”

“Photography will no doubt remain a hobby of mine,” he added, “which I hope to perhaps utilize in a future travel blog that I have in mind.”

The most challenging part of this year’s filming project for Sudol was determining the specific information to include to make the project more objective. He also put forth effort to tie all the topics that he discussed into a cohesive end result. But all these obstacles had a payoff.

“I got to experience how the news industry carries out information in a way that can grab people’s attention,” he said, “as well as [approach] more difficult subjects that may be more taboo.”

Hana Tripathee, PCTI Junior

Performing is something that Hana Tripathee enjoyed from an early age.

“My mom would always put me on camera, whether it be recorded on DVDs, VHS tapes, or on her old iPhone,” said Tripathee, 16. “I love observing things around me and love using my eyes as a camera. Memories are a very important thing to me, so I always try to bring a camera [with me] wherever I go.”

Tripathee has held onto memories from the past, including vlogs that she made on her parents’ phones. Keeping and capturing memories are what she considers influential in her improving at filmmaking.

Tripathee’s submission for this year’s festival is “Amara’s Journal”. The General Short Film pulled inspiration from short films on YouTube created by Dharminder

36 April 2024 •
Mikael Simon, Szymon Sudol, and Hana Tripathee.


“Dhar” Mann. Tripathee explained that she wanted to give her film a “vibe like Disney’s films.” She shot the film at Garret Mountain and in Wayne during a field trip with her junior class.

The junior’s past projects have received recognition. In 2022, her “Covid 19 PSA” earned her 3rd Place for a high school PSA. Last year, “Tek It – Cafune” won 1st Place for a high school music video. Tripathee has also participated in the Montclair Film Festival.

“The most challenging part of this project was managing time,” she said. “All the postproduction is done at my school and during post-production week, the school flooded and we were out of school for two weeks. I quickly overcame this problem, because I’ve been practicing my editing skills at home with other projects.”

Tripathee wants to study film to strengthen her skills in audio technology and acting.

“As much as I like being the boss, I love working for and serving others,” she said. “I hope to get a job that has a lot of teamwork. I’ve also taken up photography since the end of 2023 and hope to excel in that area as well.”

“Amara’s Journal” is Tripathee’s first self-guided production. She saw growth in her skills with a camera and, despite doubting herself throughout the process, she is proud of the effort and her commitment to the end result.

Tripathee is also appreciative of her external motivations. “Being in the Clifton Merchant Magazine is always one of the biggest highlights of my year, and it always pushes me to continue to submit my work,” she said. “Thank you for the honor.”

Sam O’Donnell, Independent Filmmaker

Storytelling was a big part of Sam O’Donnell’s childhood, and it won’t change any time soon.

Some of O’Donnell’s earliest memories include going to the movies at Palisades Mall once or twice per month with his father.

“I’ve loved movies for as long as I can remember,” said O’Donnell, 22. “We would go to AMC and split a large popcorn and soda. It was the highlight of my day.”

The idea of telling stories and influencing people’s perceptions through visual media always intrigued him. Eventually, the Rivervale native decided that he would try making the stories. “And now here I am,” he said. “Trying my best to fulfill that dream.”

O’Donnell submitted three films to this year’s Film Festival. They are entitled “Today I Think”, “A Dream”, and “How To Be a Tennis Ball in Modern Hollywood”. The second film is a stopmotion animation and the third film is a stopmotion mockumentary.

“Today I Think” is O’Donnell’s most recent project and a short documentary-style film. In the film, he interviews six people about what they’re afraid of in life and ties in the past and the future. It’s full of personal stories and is, in many ways, a reflection of O’Donnell.

“I hadn’t made films before this one with a clear message in regards to me specifically,” he said. “During the entire process, confidence is what I built the most.”

O’Donnell moved to Clifton in late 2021. He doublemajors in Film and English at Binghamton University – SUNY and will graduate in May. The senior hopes to someday earn a master’s in Film and is currently applying to positions at production companies.

“I love the idea of film and the industry, at the end of the day,” he said. “So getting any job in that area, I would be over the moon.”

O’Donnell shot parts of “Today I Think” in the heart of Downtown Clifton. Some footage was taken at a gas station, where he liked the ambiance of the lighting at night.

The three films are his first submissions to the Passaic County Film Festival. Over the past year, his submitted films were accepted and showcased at SWIFF Film Festival, Lift-Off Filmmakers Sessions, and White Rabbit Film Festival. O’Donnell is a past finalist for the Burlington County Short Film Festival.

Confidence in his ideas is something that he continues to work on improving. But O’Donnell said he has a strong community backing him, whether at school or amongst his loved ones. “I just hope that whoever ends up watching my films can take something away from it,” he said. “If it’s a personal message or if they just thought it was good, I’m more than happy with that.”

The Passaic County Film Festival is financially supported by the Passaic County Board of County Commissioners; PCCC Foundation; PSEG Foundation; Lakeland Bank; Bascom Corporation; and a grant from the Passaic County Cultural Heritage Council from the NJ State Council of the Arts. Admission is free to the April 27 Film Festival. The NJ Symphony Chamber Players will be also be present and perform live movie music to accompany the screenings! • April 2024 37
Sam O’Donnell.

Planting Positivity

Rado’s mornings at a young age.

Born to parents Manuel and Carmen Velecela, it began while growing up in Ecuador with her six younger siblings. Rado, 46, recalled how she and her siblings walked 30 or 40 minutes to school each day, but they couldn’t leave the house without Carmen’s blessings.

Today, she understands why it was so important to her mother.

“I enjoy coming to work every day, and I thank God for one more day of a job,” said Rado. “We couldn’t leave without my mother’s blessings so every day when I go to work, I [say mine].”

Since 2008, Rado has worked as a custodian at CHS. First as a substitute and then a permanent hire by her second year, Rado has spent the past 15 years forming meaningful relationships with the students, faculty, and staff.

Rado, who has lived for over 20 years in Clifton, is married to her husband, Michael, and has two sons, Christopher and Brian. Yet she sees the CHS students as her family as well.

“I know there are more than 3,000 students but, as a mom, I feel like every kid that I look at is my own kid,” said Rado. “I work here, but it feels like it’s my home.”

Making others feel at home is what Rado tries to do as well. Before the 2021-22 school year, she used her money and donations from a neighbor’s church to plant dozens of floral arrangements outside of the high school. It was the first thing that students, faculty, and staff saw in September after months of isolation and the destructive Hurricane Ida.

I felt that the high school needed a lift up.”

The effort continues today, often from Rado’s own pocket. She estimated a total of 1,000 tulips planted around the school and 350 surrounding the sculptured Fighting Mustang donated four years ago by Jack Corradino and RC Papa, a personal injury law firm which bears their names,

“I started planting in front of school, because I love plants and flowers,” said Rado. “When the [coronavirus pandemic] came, it was devastating for the whole world.

The goal is to continue beautifying the grounds little by little since Rado plants the flowers on her own time. It’s a kind gesture that she chooses to do because she wants to — and it also reminds her of someone that she loves.

“When they started growing, people said, ‘Oh, look how beautiful,’” said Rado. “I don’t know who told them that I did it, but people started saying, ‘Thank you for doing this.’”

“I grew up on a farm,” she continued, “and the memory that I have of my great-grandmother is of her loving flowers. When I see a flower, I think of her.”

38 April 2024 • • April 2024 39

Planting Positivity

Counting Her Blessings

Working in a high school undoubtedly has its challenges, but Rado confronts these challenges and takes them at face value.

“You definitely need patience,” she said. “I tell everyone — when you work in a school, you need to have nerves of steel … because you’re working with kids. We were kids once and so we know what it was like.”

Rado said she loves reading psychology books, because it helps her understand how to talk to and handle any situations with her own children. It also reminds her of how important it is to try and listen to children “before jumping to conclusions.”

“In my years working here, a couple of times seniors have asked me to sign their yearbook and asked them, ‘Why?’” recalled Rado. “One kid told me, ‘Well, Miss, one day something exploded in my backpack and you helped me in the cafeteria like you were my mom.’”

“I asked another student who said, ‘Because my project was falling apart, and you gave me tape and assisted me,’” she continued. “It made me feel so special.”

If a student needs something, Rado promised that she’ll always step in to help.

“If I have to defend a kid, I will do that no matter who it is,” she said. Then, laughing, she added, “Here comes the mom [side of me].”

At the start of her Clifton career, Rado worked nights. Nowadays she works from 6:30 am to 3:30 pm and her responsibilities vary on a daily basis.

She and other daytime custodians answer radio calls when teachers need assistance, whether it’s for a broken table or potentially a student who had a bloody nose. There is also Lunch Duty and supply runs for anyone who needs it.

It can be an unseen or overlooked job, but Rado emphasizes that their work is important even if people aren’t necessarily aware of it.

“I think we’re like essential workers,” said Rado. “We clean snow in the winter. In the summer when it’s 105 degrees, we’re sweeping the floors. During a hurricane, or anything, we’re here. We never leave. When people have a day off, we’re here.”

It’s also essential work for her family, just like it is for many other families. Rado recalled how a few years after she and Michael wed and their oldest son was a year old, Michael was laid off from Hoffmann La-Roche when the company left Clifton.

Michael was additionally injured and Rado worked two full-time jobs. But they needed a job that could provide them with health insurance. Enter, Clifton Public Schools.

“This job saved my house,” said Rado, candidly. “Thank God they hired me permanently … and hopefully, I will retire from here.”

That positive outlook and never complaining about the challenges of work come from an early role model in her life.

“I always look at my dad and how [while I grew up] he never complained about anything,” said Rado. “We have to be there. That’s what we’re here for.”

Clifton Schools recognized several employees of the month, including these custodians, in an initiative to recognize the district’s staff. Above are some of the team most often working the grounds around Clifton Stadium and Christopher Columbus
40 April 2024 • • April 2024 41


Nearly 400 friends of the Boys & Girls of Clifton honored recently retired Executive Director Bob Foster (seen at left with his wife Mary Jo) at the Valley Regency on March 14. The Gala also provided an opportunity for the Club’s new CEO, Gabe Blau, (below left) to meet many friends and community partners. Three amazing Club Alumni—Lori Huk, Israel Reyes and Lee Sanderson—were inducted into the B&G Club Alumni Hall of Fame. Finally, the 2024 Youth of Year was announced—Deijah Kelly, top facing page with her uncle. The Clifton resident is a standout senior at Passaic County Technical-Vocational School.

42 April 2024 •

Special thanks to the Valley Regency for its generous hospitality! The Club is also so appreciative of all the sponsors, advertisers and everyone that bought a ticket to attend the event. We warmly thank the gala’s Signature sponsors:

Pick Pina Group

Fette Auto Group

Corradino & Papa

Krenicki Foundation • April 2024 43

Thank You Gala committee:

Chair: Cindy DeVos. James Anzaldi, Gabe Blau, Maureen Cameron, Tina Chung DMD, Joe Cupoli, Drea De Luca, MaryJo Foster, Joe Holmes, Melissa Inoa, Patty Lavender, Rich Mariso, Pina Nazario, Maureen O’Connor, Gregory Reinholt, Chris Street, Allie Zeszotarski.

44 April 2024 •
Save The Dates: Golf Classic - May 9 Car Show - September 8 Taste of Clifton - October 14 Alumni & Friends Get Together Join Clifton B&G Club Alumni to keep The Club strong. Meet Wed., May 1 at 7 pm at The Club Game room. Light refreshments and beverages. Join Us!!! RSVP to Maureen Cameron at or 973-773-0966, ext. 144 • April 2024 45


Spring Sports by

After enduring its first losing season since 2019, Clifton baseball expects a bounce-back year. Joe Rivera’s squad remains green, but they have demonstrated hunger and enthusiasm, and are motivated to improve on last season’s 6-16 performance. “Even though we lost [now-graduated pitcher] Kyle Rogers, we should be a better team,” said Rivera. “We return a lot.”

Among those the head coach has back is junior No. 1 pitcher Andrew Gibney. An elbow injury has limited him this preseason, but he figures to be the main man on the mound, MRI pending. Sophomore Trevor Rascher will be second in the rotation, and Rivera lauds his “good stuff.” Junior No. 3 Seth Porcelli throws strikes and keeps the ball down.

Senior Miguel Checo will be an asset behind the plate thanks to his strong arm. He will also be the Mustangs’ leadoff hitter and has speed on the base paths. The Clifton infield is still developing. On first, sophomore Justin Cabrera and Ryan McCormac will share duties, and each is an asset at the plate. Senior Kyano Jimenez—a tough athlete who took two years off to concentrate on football—and junior Jeremy Sanchez will compete for time at second base, and each can contribute as a courtesy runner when needed.

Senior shortstop Najib Duversaint is back, batting in the middle of the lineup with a hard swing and solid base running to the field. Junior Jonathan Colon is a reliable fielder and who makes good contact at the plate and will play third.

Sophomore Steven Pena will start in left field, moving to right when Rascher, Clifton’s right fielder, is pitching. When not pitching, Gibney will start in center. Senior Angel Gerardo, junior Nate Pandola and senior Jack Seyka will compete for time in the outfield, as well. Thanks to the energy of the roster, Rivera is optimistic that the Mustangs can put 2023 behind them.

Apr 1 @ Eastside 4:15pm

Apr 3 Eastside 4:15pm

Apr 5 Wayne Hills 4:15pm

Apr 8 Passaic 4:30pm

Apr 9 @ Passaic 4:30pm

Apr 11 @ Pequannock 4pm

Apr 12 @ PV 4pm

Apr 15 @ Bergen Tech 4:15pm

Apr 17 Bergen Tech 4:30pm

Apr 19 @Wayne Val. 4:15pm

Apr 22 @ DePaul 4pm

Apr 24 Ridgewood 4:15pm

Apr 29 JFK 4:15pm

May 1 @ JFK 4:15pm

May 3 @ Fair Lawn 4:15pm

May 6 PCTI 4:15pm

May 8 @Paramus Cath 4:15pm

May 9 @ PCTI 5pm

May 13 Don Bosco 4pm

May 15 McNair Acad. 4:30pm

May 16 Mahwah 4:15pm

Tom Szieber Kneeling from left: Aaron Tapia De la Cruz, Angel Geraldo, Kyano Jimenez, Miguel Checo, Najib Duversaint, Najati Salim, Jack Seyka and Ryan Mc Cornac. Standing: Jeremy Sanchez, Jonathan Colon, Andrew Gibney, Justin Cabrera, Nate Pendola, Trevor Rascher, Steven Pena and Seth Porcelli.
46 April 2024 •

Clifton softball wilted at the end of last season, dropping their final four games to finish 10-13. Too many mental errors and poor defense cost the Mustangs what could have been a very respectable conclusion to the year. Now, they are back with a team that boasts a core of talented freshmen and sophomores, as well as good senior leadership, and hope to write a much different story in 2024.

“Pitching is 99.9% of the game,” said Mustangs head coach Ish Falcon. “It isn’t how hard you throw your fastball, it’s where you throw it.”

With that in mind, Clifton will rely heavily on sophomore Sydney Reeb to get it done in the circle. A control hurler, she has exhibited improved velocity on her pitches this preseason. “She has to put the ball in the right spot,” said Falcon. “And we have got to make plays for her.” Freshman Andrea Cedeno will pitch, as well, and will also play shortstop and second base.

As for the starting infield, sophomore catcher Josie Zagorski provides allcounty and all-league talent and returns after a team-leading 40-hit freshman campaign. Clifton’s leadoff hitter, she has the arm and the smarts to pick runners off on a regular basis. Freshman Brianna Armstrong has impressed Falcon in camp and will back up Zagorski. She may see time at first or DP when needed.

Sophomore Jordan Kulesa will play first and hit clean-up a year after driving in 21 runs. Sophomore Vanessa Zapata is battling with Cedeno for the nod at second, while senior Kiara Coy moves from third to shortstop. Natasha Avlies, an aggressive, hungry freshman, will replace Coy in the five-spot.

Senior Jazzlin Feliciano or junior Isabella Franco will line up in left field, while senior Jackie Vizcaino plays in right. Senior Mia Joyce will take her speed to center field a year after earning all-county and all-league recognition at second base.

In sum, the Mustangs appear to have a collection of talent worthy of a run at a division title. If they play their cards right, they may surprise pundits and make a run in Passaic County, as well.

Seniors from rear left:

Brianna Armstrong, Paulina Soto Rios, Lindsay Molina, Isabella Franco, Andrea Cedeno, Jordan Kulesa and Natasha Aviles.

Middle row:

Josephine Zagorski, Sydney Reeb, Juliana Canales, Jazzlin Feliciano and Vanessa Zapata.

Captains in front: Jackeline Vizcaino, Kiara Coy and Mia Joyce.


Apr 1 Fair Lawn 4:15pm

Apr 3 @Paramus Cath 4pm

Apr 5 Eastside 4:15pm

Apr 8 @ JFK 4pm

Apr 10 PV 4pm

Apr 12 @ Passaic 4:30pm

Apr 13 DePaul 5pm

Apr 15 DePaul 4pm

Apr 17 @ PCTI 4pm

Apr 19 @ Bergen Tech 4:15pm

Apr 22 @ Eastside 4:15pm

Apr 24 Passaic 4:30pm

Apr 26 @ Caldwell 4pm

Apr 29 @ Hackensack 4:15pm

May 3 JFK 4:15pm

May 6 Bergen Tech 4:30pm

May 8 @Wayne Val. 4:15pm

May 10 PCTI 4:15pm

May 13 Lakeland 4:15pm

May 17 Montclair 4pm

48 April 2024 •
LARGE HIIT TURF GROUP FITNESS PERSONAL TRAINING $0 ENROLLMENT ON PEAK RESULTS CRUNCH CLIFTON 895 PAULISON AVE • CLIFTON, NJ • 973.553.9470 Sign up at or in-club /CrunchClifton @CrunchClifton Offer valid on annual contract. Annual fee and applicable taxes apply. Pricing and amenities may vary by membership and location. Additional fees and restrictions may apply. Standard first month dues apply. Offers ends 4/30. See club for details. © 2024 Crunch IP Holdings, LLC MAXING OUT FEELS GOOD • April 2024 49

The excitement for 2024 is palpable, and the Clifton flag football players are, among other things, confident.

Last season’s 2-3-2 finish, while not adding to the Clifton trophy case, was an accomplishment for a team that struggled mightily in its 2023 debut.

The Mustangs showed moxie and killer instinct no matter what was on the scoreboard. Now, they want to elevate themselves to the upper tier of programs in the Super Football Conference.


“It’s just the great energy I get working with these girls,” explained head coach Lindsey Cinque of the reason she believes 2024 will be special. “They are just a dedicated group of hardworking girls. It takes a lot of mental toughness to do what we do.”

Add dedication, too. For instance, many of these moxie Mustangs compete in other spring sports. Which means practice times conflict so Flag Footballers practice mornings before school starts, at around 6 am, to get their training in. That gives them greater time to prepare for the season and for newcomers to learn the fundamentals.

But this year there is a lot of returning talent. For instance, Senior Kiara Coy returns under center and is poised for a big spring. She has some talented receivers at her disposal, including senior Sierra Fisbeck, a true homerun threat.

Junior Emilia Wilk, sophomore Gianna Colon and a yet-to-be-determined player will round out the receiving corps.

Running back Angelina Carnet and center Zayda Murphy, both seniors, will be checkdown options in the passing game and leading pieces of the run game.

Defensively, Clifton could be a force, thanks in no small part to players like junior rusher Meagan Valido, whose speed and aggressiveness catch offenses off-guard. Senior middle linebacker Nicole Acuna will be a key part of the Mustangs’ pass rush, as well.

Seniors Carly Stoepker and Amanda Presutto are the Mustangs’ outside linebackers, and have both shown impressive run-pass recognition in the preseason.

Fisbeck and sophomore Christina Briguglio will be Clifton’s starting cornerbacks, and junior Kayla Acuna will line up at safety.

With an additional year of experience, expect the Mustangs to make a big leap this spring. If their enthusiasm can match that of their head coach, it is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

“From what we’ve seen so far, we definitely have a lot of athletes,” Cinque said. “I expect us to be lights out. We are here to win.”

Apr 4 PCTI 11am Apr 10 @ Passaic 6:30pm Apr 18 JFK 6:30pm Apr 23 @Wayne Valley 7pm Apr 25 @ Eastside 6:30pm Apr 30 Wayne Hills 7pm May 3 DePaul 6:30pm May 9 @ East Orange 4pm
From rear left: Evelyn Mannina, Malaak Awawda, Olivia Weglinski, Janae Catala, Jackeline Vizcaino, Kiara Coy, Nicole Acuna, Meagan Valido, Emilia Wilk, Amanda Presutto, Kayla Acuna, Zayda Murphy, Sierra Fisbeck, Bianca Pockels Frias, Tamia Shaw, Alivia Unis, Sophia Cassibba. Front: Keilyn Guzman, Jaslene Montoya, Melissa Garth, Leah Brown, Gianna Colon, Carly Stoepker, Christina Briguglio, Madison Greenfield, Nyah Negron, Gia Delgado, Rachell Moncion, Angelina Carnet, Melanie Gonzalez.
50 April 2024 • • April 2024 51

It took some time, but it looks like the Clifton track program has recovered from a pandemic-caused decimation of its roster. The Mustangs are deep and talented, though they are a bit young. Still, as always, they will be ready to compete.


“Numbers-wise we are looking pretty good,” said Clifton girls head coach Kareem West. “We have some seniors returning that are the anchor of the team and that’s good. It will be exciting to see how we do in leagues and counties.”

One athlete that is likely to be a force this spring is Debora Amoh. The senior won a state title in the high jump during indoor season, and should be in the mix to do it outside, as well. She will also help Clifton’s cause in long jump, triple jump and hurdles.

“Her PR is five feet in the high jump and hopefully she can best that,” West said. “She can [win a state championship), absolutely. She is looking good the first few weeks of practice.”

Junior Mia DeVita is a runner with a high upside who can compete in the open 400m, the 4x4 and, potentially, the 800m. Sophomore Mikaella Francisco and senior Denise Dubbels give the Mustangs a deep pool of jumpers. Francisco is particularly strong in the triple jump, while Dubbels has recently added pole vault to her repertoire.

Freshman Melissa Garth, a skilled soccer player, will be an athlete to watch in the 100m and 200m hurdles.

As for the Clifton boys, junior Nathaniel Phillip will be the squad’s leader. He is the Mustangs’ top 100m and 200m

Senior boys from left: Jason Jones, Ryan Vozzella, Marvin Bailey, Jude Rex, Devon Stroble, Trumain Lawson, Felix Benevides and Alex Ralli. Seniors girls: Denise Dubbels, Mary Jo Martinez, Sierra Fisbeck, Jada Witter, Lylah Flores, Gianna Delgado and Viktoria Green.
Date2024 Spring Rabies Clinics for Dogs & Cats CALL CLIFTON AT (973) 470-5760 FOR MORE INFORMATION. CALL LITTLE FALLS AT (973) 256-0170 FOR MORE INFORMATION. DOGS MUST BEON LEASHES; CATS MUST BEIN CARRIERS. NO ONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 WILL BE ALLOWED IN WITHOUT AN ADULT. MUST HAVE VALID FORM OF IDENTIFICATION ALL NEW JERSEY RESIDENTS ARE WELCOMED The Clifton Health Department is a contractual health agency serving the Township of Little Falls. 52 April 2024 •
Little Falls


Apr 1 Mult. Schools


Apr 6 @ Ridgewood 8:30am

Apr 8 Bergen Tech 4pm

Apr 12 @ Wayne Hills 3:30pm

Apr 13 @ Wayne Hills 8:30am

Apr 15 Passaic 4pm

Apr 22 JFK 4pm

May 3 @ PV 3:30pm

May 13 @ TBA TBD

May 21 @ TBA 4pm

May 22 @ TBA 4pm

May 31 @ TBA 4pm

Jun 1 @ TBA 9am

competitor, as well as their best long jumper and triple jumper. Junior Lamarr Olive, an indoor county champion in the 1600m and 3200m is a consistent high-level performer who will provide the Mustangs with critical points.

Seniors Alias Ragsdale (shot put, discus, javelin), Jason Jones (high jump, triple jump, long jump) and Alex Ralli (800m, 1600m) will need to contribute, as will sophomore Tarik Pesocan (pole vault, sprints).

With Passaic County Tech loaded, a division title will be difficult to attain this spring, but the Mustangs will fight hard to play spoiler.

And regardless of the result of that pursuit, the tradition of the track program makes it a sure thing that they will come to compete in each and every meet on their schedule.

“We want to see these kids develop,” said Clifton boys coach John Pontes. “So that by the end of our duel season, and once leagues and counties come around, we are a better team than we were April 1.”

MUSTANG SPORTS R E G I S T E R N O W • April 2024 53

Mike Velez’s first season at the helm of the Clifton boys lacrosse wasn’t easy. The Mustangs won just two of their 18 games, producing a campaign that represented a changing of the guard.

Year two figures to be the proper kickoff of a rebuild, with a mostly underclassman-laden group.

“My first objective is always to improve our record,” Velez said. “We need to have more contributors. And if we went .500, that would be a huge accomplishment.”

The Mustangs do, of course, have one key senior returnee—midfielder Nate Ceneri—who led them in goals, assists, points and ground balls in 2023. Ceneri’s toughness, leadership, and athleticism figure to give the young squad stability as it jells.

The graduation of midfielder Gavin Quinones—who was second on the team in each of the above-referenced stat categories—leaves little additional experience on the Clifton offense.

The team will look to a talented, but youthful, supporting cast to put balls in the net, namely, junior Colton Sargo, the team’s second-leading returning point and goal scorer.


Primarily playing attack, he will man the midfield when needed. Junior Joseph Petriella and sophomore Benjamin Smith will be looked upon for offensive output, as well.


Apr 2 Newark Acad. 4pm

Apr 4 @ Hawthorne 4pm

Apr 6 @ Westwood 10am

Apr 9 Fair Lawn 4:15pm

Apr 11 @ Bergen Tech 4:15pm

Apr 13 Rutherford 11am

Apr 15 @Paramus Cath 4pm

Apr 17 Nutley TBD

Apr 18 West Orange 4pm

Apr 24 East. Christian 4pm

Apr 26 @Union Cath. TBD

May 1 @Pompt. Lakes TBD

May 7 N Valley 7pm

May 9 J. Dayton 6:30pm

May 11 @ Verona 10am

May 14 @ PV 4pm

May 16 DePaul 4pm

May 18 PCTI 10am

When Sargo moves to the midfield, sophomore Massimo Colucci will spell him on attack.

Junior Alexander Moore and senior William Mansfield will be the squad’s primary middies, while junior Chase Avalon will play with a longstick.

“Most of these guys have essentially all played together,” said Velez. “My hope is that teams will have to double up on Nate and that will open up space for these other guys to have an impact.”

Sophomore Marek Dlugopolski will play defense, though his size and downfield speed will likely result in some midfield appearances, as well. He will share the back end of the field with junior Juan Castro and sophomore Matt Doktor, a transfer from Parsippany Hills, as they look to fill the void left with the graduation of James Troller and Jacob Vazquez. Junior Ismael Jimenez will move from backup to starter in the goal this year.

54 April 2024 • • April 2024 55

A 6-12 finish wasn’t what Clifton girls lacrosse wanted in 2023. The Mustangs were not playoff-ready, but with four losses by three points or less, they easily could have achieved a prettier spot in the standings. This year, they return a slew of key players, hoping that the experiences of last spring will turn successful 2024.

“I think they will,” said sixteenthyear head coach Amanda Gryszkin. “It is just a matter of figuring out who is going to score goals. We just have to get them a rhythm.”

The offense will be led by outstanding junior midfielder Emilia Wilk, senior Carly Stoepker, a four-year starter, and junior Meagan Valido, a three-year starter. Stoepker is a smart player who will play collegiately at Montclair State, while Valido will enjoy an increased role and increased responsibility to generate points. Senior Zayda Murphy is an aggressive player with great anticipation who Gryszkin says has a high upside. “It is going to be a group effort,” Gryszkin said.

The attack is a bit less settled, though senior Ottilia Kedl will provide experience, having logged good minutes in 2023, with 14 goals. Junior Jaelyn Rivera will start on the attack, as well. The remaining two starting slots will

be filled by some combination of senior Casey Wellins, juniors Brianna Moyse, Saleena Boutros and soph Ella Carlo.


Defense will feature seniors Kate Arce and Amanda Presutto, along with sophomores Hannah Francis, Olivia Weglinski and Taina LaBril. That group will need to provide support for goalie Gianna Tolon, a sophomore who started last year.

Apr 1 Rutherford 4pm

Apr 5 @ PV 4pm

Apr 8 Fair Lawn 4:15pm

Apr 11 Bergen Tech 4:30pm

Apr 13 Waldwick 10am

Apr 15 @ Parsippany 4pm

Apr 17 Irvington 4:30pm

Apr 20 West Orange 10am

Apr 22 Saddle Brook 4pm

Apr 24 Paramus 6pm

Apr 26 @N Valley 4:30pm

Apr 29 @Paramus Cath 4:15pm

May 2 @ PCTI 4pm

May 7 @ J. Dayton 4pm

May 11 Wayne Hills 10am

May 13 MHC 4pm

May 15 North Warren 4:15pm

May 18 Lakeland 11:30am

Tolon may prove to be a star on the rise, having put in considerable work this offseason, looking solid in a March 22 scrimmage against Cedar Grove.

“Gianna kept us in some games last year,” said Gryszkin. “She makes some saves she has no business making.”

In all, Clifton has the potential to make a run at .500 and a postseason berth. “They are going to have to grow up fast,” Gryszkin said. “They aren’t first-year players anymore. They all have a good attitude and want to do well. We can make it work.”

Front from left; Briana Moyse, Ella Carlo, Meagan Valido, Jaelyn Rivera, Giana Colon, Violet

Zoe Martinez, Tiana Hrubovcakova, Vivian Santiago. Rear: Taina LaBril, Hannah Francis, Casey Wellins, Amanda Presutto, Carly Stoepker, Zayda Murphy, Otilia Kedl, Kate Arce, Emilia Wilk, Olivia Weglinski, Saleena Bourtos-Spariosu, Olivia Irala.

56 April 2024 •

Shirah Wittwer has been the Clifton boys tennis coach since 2019, and she is hoping that her fifth season (there was no spring season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) will be a breakout one for her squad.

The Mustangs are senior-heavy and talented, and with a more advantageous schedule than the one they played last spring, there appears to be a lot of potential for 2024.

“I think last year, our [8-12] record had something to do with how many matches we played,” Wittwer said. “At one point, we had 10 or 12 straight matches without a practice.”

Indeed, such a frantic schedule can make it difficult to make tweaks and recharge a team’s proverbial batteries. This season, the slate is a bit more reasonable, and the Mustangs have good experience on the roster.

At first singles, senior Pat DuBois will take a finesse-oriented game to the clay. DuBois manned the top spot for most of last season before bumping to second singles late in the year.

“When he lands his serve, Pat definitely keeps himself in it,” Wittwer said. “First singles is a tough spot. You get a lot of guys who can hit the ball very hard. But he is a little more prepared this year.”

Senior Pratham Gandhi will play second singles, having seen action there and at first singles in 2023. Still relatively new to the game and blessed with much natural talent, Wittwer believes that the more experience he gets, the better he will be.


Gandhi must work on consistency, but looked good against Kearny in a preseason meeting in March.

Third singles will feature junior Abdullah Aref, who has raised his game this preseason. Aref is adept at keeping his opponent moving and is strong enough to blast the ball when his foe is off-balance.


Seniors Marcello Murphy and Jaishal Desai will play first doubles and have developed great chemistry in practice. Senior Ethan Ho and sophomore Adrian WilsonKing will complete the Clifton lineup in the second doubles slot. “It is really about the commitment from the guys,” Wittwer said of her team’s chances. “If they can commit, then absolutely we can compete.”

4pm Apr
PCTI 4pm Apr
Passaic 4:30pm
From left: Alex Wilson King, Adrian Wilson King, Jaishal Desai, Patrick DuBois, Marcello Murphy, Abdullah Aref, Ethan Ho. Not pictured, starter 2nd singles, Pratham Gandhi.
Apr 2 @ Lakeland 4pm
4 PCTI 9am Apr 9 @ Passaic 4:30pm
11 Bergen Tech 4:30pm
12 Kearny 4pm Apr 16 @ JFK 4pm Apr 17 @ Becton 4pm
18 @ Eastside 4pm
19 @ Union City 4pm
23 Wayne Valley
25 @
May 2 Fair Lawn 4:15pm May 7 @ Bergen Tech 4pm May 9 JFK 4pm May 10 Eastside 4pm
14 @ Don Bosco 4pm May 15 @ Cedar Grove 4pm May 16 Becton 4pm • April 2024 57

Jorge Rodriguez had lofty goals and high expectations heading into 2023. Then, the Mustangs dropped eight of their first nine games and limped to a disappointing 9-16 finish. It was disheartening, for sure, but Clifton’s head coach is hopeful that they can bounce back this spring, thanks to some key returnees and a lot of hard work. “We didn’t execute in game time last year,” Rodriguez conceded. “Our passing would break down. Our offense would break down. Our blocking was pretty good, it is just a matter of executing. We were too inconsistent.”

58 April 2024 •
Front: Noah Carson, Aiden Griffiths, Adrian Nemeth, Lauro Barrantes, Sajjad Hameed. Middle: David Boria, Johan Rodriguez, Bruno Lara Gonzalez, Jigme Bhutia, Axel Barrera, Deep Mehta, Coach Rodriguez. Back: Jason Labocki, Flavio Cisneros, Giianpaul Restrepo, Nathaniel Fisbeck, Luis Rivera.

One player who was consistent was outside hitter Nathaniel Fisbeck. Now a senior, Fisbeck was the team’s top returnee in digs (59) and second among the same group in kills (95). The Mustangs’ best server, he will be counted on to generate enough scoring to lead his team to tough victories.

“Nathaniel has gotten a lot better [this offseason],” said Rodriguez. “He has been playing club. He will definitely be the guy to go to.”



Apr 4 @ JFK 4pm

Apr 5 Randolph 4pm

Apr 8 @D. Morrow 4pm

Apr 9 Paterson Chart. 4:15pm

Apr 10 Bergen Tech 4:30pm

Apr 12 @ Lakeland 4:15pm

Apr 16 PCTI 4pm

Apr 18 @ Bergenfield 4:15pm

Apr 19 @ Passaic 4:30pm

Apr 20 @ Harrison 9am

Apr 22 Glen Ridge 4pm

Apr 23 Montclair 4pm

Apr 24 @ Eastside 4pm

Apr 26 JFK 4pm

Apr 27 TBA 9am

Apr 29 @ Bergen Tech 4:15pm

May 1 D. Morrow 4:15pm

May 2 North Bergen 4:30pm

May 6 Wayne Valley 4:15pm

May 9 West Orange 4pm

May 10 @ PCTI 4pm

May 11 @ Harrison 9am

May 14 Passaic 4:30pm

May 16 Eastside 4:15pm

May 17 @ Belleville 4pm

May 20 @ West Milford 4:15pm

Rodriguez considers senior setter Adrian Nemeth the team’s “quarterback” and a difference-maker whose role will increase with another year of experience under his belt. Appendix surgery had him miss preseason but he will control the game when he returns. Sophomore Flabio Cisneros will start in his absence.

“I wish I would have had Adrian setting the entire time last year,” Rodriguez said. “It would have built more consistency with the hitters. This year, he will split time less and run the game.” Senior Jason Labocki has been setting in practice but will play the outside once Nemeth is back full-time.

Senior opposite hitter Lauro Barrantes, who had 100 kills in 2023, will keep defenses honest if they focus too much on Fisbeck. Senior libero Jigme Bhutia, a transfer from New York with a high upside, is fast, strong on defense and has good on-court instincts. Junior Sajjad Hameed and senior MB Noah Carson will play up front as middle blockers.

In sum, Clifton has a lineup that may feature fewer household names than its 2023 edition, but with enough pieces to improve on last season’s disappointing finish. “We will see,” Rodriguez said. “I expect them to do make a good run in the Counties.” • April 2024 59
R E G I S T E R N O W 60 April 2024 •


Here are the Mustangs of the Month for April 2024.

These four students, one from each grade, were selected by the vice principals at CHS, to be spotlighted for their personal achievements and school-wide contributions.

Andres Villamarin – Freshman

Andres Villamarin picked up the alto saxophone in the fourth grade and never put it down again.

The freshman’s most influential teacher is his Band teacher Bryan Stepneski.

“I have always been a fanatic of music ever since I was young,” said Villamarin (CHS 2027). “Mr. Stepneski has guided me to the right path, and I will honor him for his amazing ability as conductor and as my teacher.”

Villamarin currently participates in the CHS Mustang Marching Band. He plans to run Spring Outdoor Track and enjoys his Social Studies class.

“I consider it the easiest as all we’re doing is basically learning about the past, not what number times what number, or certain alleles lead to what phenotype,” said Villamarin. “We just read about what did what and who shot who, and honestly; that’s the best.”

Although Villamarin doesn’t look up to any one specific person, he expressed appreciation and admiration for his parents.

“They’re the two people that raised me to become who I am, and since I got this title, you already know that they’re great parents,” he said. “I owe so much to them, and one day I wish to be able to repay them. This award is already just a step toward that goal.”

Jenna Alnatur – Sophomore

Jenna Alnatur is already what she wants to be when she grows up. The Mustang sophomore is an attorney on the CHS Mock Trial team and will compete this summer in the Mock Trial World Championship.

“I have been on the team since the beginning of my freshman year,” said Alnatur (CHS 2026). “So far on the team, I have competed at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. I hope through the guidance of my team and coaching, we go on to win States this year.”

Alnatur additionally participates on the Varsity Volleyball team. She trains in Taekwondo outside of school and is a second-degree black belt.

Lori McCoy is a stand-out teacher who Alnatur credited as “understanding all of her students.”

“She always helps and breaks things down when you ask,” said Alnatur. “She inspires me to learn chemistry and understand everything. Dr. McCoy is constantly pushing you to better yourself,” she continued. “Even when I ask for her help during her free period, she is always eager to help.”

Staying successful means staying organized and managing her schedule. Alnatur’s parents are part of the support system that makes it all possible.

“Also making sure [to] set priorities,” said Alnatur. “For me that’s my faith, family, and school.”

Andres Villamarin, Jenna Alnatur, Nicholas Doktor, Mariana Quesada Moya.
62 April 2024 •

Nicholas Doktor – Junior

When we last caught up with Nicholas Doktor for our January 2023 edition, he understood the importance of keeping yourself focused and externally motivated.

Doktor, at that time a sophomore, was recognized on Dec. 14, 2022 by for its team-by-team previews of New Jersey wrestling in the 2022-23 season. Today, Doktor is still a member of the Varsity Wrestling team and is part of the Athletic Trainers Club.

Doktor has a clear plan for his future.

“I want to be a history teacher and coach wrestling after college,” said Doktor (CHS 2025). “The relations between events in the past and things occurring currently is fascinating to me.”

Doktor is the son of Clifton’s Director of Operations and Student Services Michael Doktor. The junior named both his parents, Michael and Kim, as his biggest sources of inspiration. “They both have helped me so much in achieving my goals so far,” said Doktor, “and they are great role models to look up to.”

There are role models for him inside of CHS as well. Doktor is taking another class with Social Studies teacher Michael Rogers this year.

“He has shown me so many things that have really reinforced my dream to be a history teacher,” said Doktor.

Mariana Quesada Moya – Senior

One of Mariana Quesada Moya’s future aspirations includes studying Computer Science with a focus on Cybersecurity. She’s also proud to become the first in her family to graduate from college.

“I am determined to fight against inequality to ensure that everyone, especially young people, has access to equal opportunities,” said Moya (CHS 2024).

One of Moya’s significant hurdles in high school was emigrating from Costa Rica and learning English from scratch. Her support system made all the difference.

“Adapting to the American culture and educational system would not have been possible without the help of my friends and teachers,” said Moya.

Most influenced by World Language teacher Norma Stagg and Social Studies teacher Matthew Stuart, she credited them helping her learn in and out of school by teaching her to “connect with my roots and culture.”

Extracurricular activities include varsity swimming, National Honor Society, and National Social Studies Honor Society. Moya also serves as the Vice President of the Global Mentoring Program and Girls Who Code Club. “The person who inspires me the most is my sister Melany,” said Moya. “[She] was the first in our entire family to complete her high school education [in 2017 in Costa Rica].” • April 2024 63

Clifton Recreation Presents:

SUMMER Fun In The Sun 2024 Program

Register Soon!

Summer Fun in the Sun Program

Runs for two (2), 3 week sessions

Session 1: July 1st – July 19th (no camp July 4)

Session 2: July 22nd – August 9th

The program will run Monday through Friday from 9 am – 3 pm (no camp on 4th). The cost of the program is $150 (residents) and $240 (non-residents) per session. In addition to the daily activities conducted, there will be trips/special events offered for an additional fee. Participants must be 5 as of October 1, 2023 through 13 as of October 1, 2023. Children completing 9th grade or who are 15 years of age or older, should apply for the Future Leaders Program.

Summer Fun in the Sun Program is run completely outdoors and offered at the following park locations: Albion Park (201 Maplewood Ave.)

Mt. Prospect Park (341 Mt Prospect Ave.)

Nash Park (700 Lexington Ave.)

Stefan Tatarenko Park (55 Broaddale Ave.)

Registration Begins April 17!

Registration is conducted online at or in person at the Recreation Department, 900 Clifton Ave., 2nd Floor. Questions? Call Clifton Recreation Department at 973 470-5956.

We’re Hiring Summer Camp Counselors!

Email to request an application. Interview to follow. Applicants must be 18 or older and will have graduated high school as of June 2024

64 April 2024 •

Clifton Recreation Presents:


The Future Leaders Program is a counselor in training program designed for young teens to learn the responsibilities of becoming a summer program counselor in the future.

Teens who have completed 9th grade and up, or are age 15 or older are eligible for this program. The cost of the program is $75 (Residents Only). Additional costs apply to attend trips, scheduled during the program.

Future leaders will be responsible for assisting in daily activities with the summer programs.

Participants will be required to attend all orientation sessions, and staff meetings as well as be available for 5 of the 6 weeks that the summer program is being conducted.

Future Leaders Program helps set the pace for the future.
Question? Call Clifton Rec @ 973-470-5956
go to
on April 17 • April 2024 65

Clifton Recreation Presents:

SUMMER Specialty Camps

July Camps

Fun on the Farm: July 8 - 19, 9 - 11 am, Ages 5-7, $150 R/NR, M W F

Care for animals, plants and gardens with the City Green Staff at Schultheis Farm.

Baseball/Pitchers/Catchers: July 8 - 11, 9 am - noon. Ages 7-17, $125 R/NR, M-Th

Train with the CHS Mustang baseball coaches - for pitchers and catchers.

Volleyball Camp: July 8 - 11, 6:30- 8 pm, Ages 8-15, $65 R/NR, M-Th

Develop individual skills and learn more about the game.

Pickleball: July 8 - 18, 5:00 - 6:00 pm, Ages 11 - 14, $60 R/NR, M-Th

Learn the fundamentals of the fastest growing sport of Pickleball.

Ninja Warriors: July 15 - 18, 9:30 - noon, Ages 5-12, $215 R/NR, M-Th

Aspiring Ninjas climb, swing, jump and train on an obstacle course.

Baseball Skills: July 15 - 18, 9 - noon, Ages 7-17, $125 R/NR, M-Th

Train with the CHS Mustang baseball coaches - for baseball basics.

Puppet Theater: July 15 - 19, 9 - noon, Ages 5 - 7, $115 R/NR, M-F

Mix visual arts with performance and bring puppets to life.

Puppet Theater: July 15 - 19, 1 - 4:00 pm, Ages 8 - 11, $115 R/NR, M-F

Mix visual arts with performance and bring puppets to life.

Game Design Coding: July 22 - 26, 9 - noon, Ages 10 - 12, $215 R/NR, M-F

Build, code and play with robots as part of STEM studies.

Amusement Park Tycoon: July 22 - 26, 1- 4:00 pm, Ages 8-11, $215 R/NR, M-F

Engineer with your group an amazing amusement park with STEM studies.

Tennis: July 22 - 26, 9 - noon, Ages 7 - 17, $215 R/NR, M-F

Learn the game of tennis while developing socializing, game skills and sportsmanship.

Fun on the Farm: July 22 - Aug. 2, 9 - 11 am, Ages 5-7, $150 R/NR, M W F

Care for animals, plants and gardens with the City Green Staff at Schultheis Farm.

Tennis: July 29 - Aug. 2, 9 - noon, Ages 7 - 17, $215 R/NR, M-F

Learn the game of tennis while developing socializing, game skills and sportsmanship.

Broadway Camp: July 29- Aug. 2, 9 - 3 pm, Ages 6-9, $215 R/NR, M-F

Learn the songs and score for “Frozen” with a last day performance.

66 April 2024 •

Registration Begins April 17!

August Camps

Fun on the Farm: Aug. 5 - 16, 9 - 11 am, Ages 5-7, $150 R/NR, M W F

Care for animals, plants and gardens with the City Green Staff at Schultheis Farm.

Claws, Codes & Constellations: Aug. 5 - 9, 9 - noon, Ages 6 - 12, $215 R/NR, M-F

Learn secret codes, explore the solar system and apply Newton’s Law to sports.

Goin’ Camping Art: Aug. 5 - 9, 9 - noon, Ages 5 - 9, $215 R/NR, M-F

Make nature art from the outdoors.

Brixology: Aug. 5 - 9, 1 - 4:00 pm, Ages 5 -10, $215 R/NR, M-F

Use Lego bricks to build engineered themed projects.

Yummy Art: Aug. 12 - 16, 9 - noon, Ages 5 - 10, $215 R/NR, M-F

Art inspired by food and food artists from around the world.

Redbulls Soccer Mini Bulls Aug. 12-16, 9-10:30 am, Ages 4-5, $215 R/NR, M-F

Redbulls Half Day: Aug. 12-16, 8:30 - noon, Ages 6-14, $275 R/NR, M-F

Redbulls Full Day: Aug. 12-16, 8:30 - 3 pm, Ages 7-14, $340 R/NR, M-F

All players receive t-shirt, ball, scorecard and ticket to Red Bulls game.

RE/CO Robots: Aug. 19 - 23, 9 - noon, Ages 8-12, $165 R/NR, M-F

Build and take home your very own RE/CO robot.

Jewelry Design: Aug. 19-23, 9 - noon, Ages 8-13, $155 R/NR, M-F

Use beads, materials and tools to create one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Intro to Sewing Machine: Aug. 19-23, 1 - 4 pm, Ages 7 to 12, $155 R/NR, M-F

On a real sewing machine make useable and wearable items.

Young Entrepreneurship: Aug. 19-23, 12:30 - 3:30 pm, Ages 9 - 13, $165 R/NR, M-F

Create your own e-commerce business, money management and marketing.

AI Academy: Aug. 26 - 30, 9 - noon, Ages 9 - 13, $165 R/NR, M-F

Learn the amazing usage of AI to create a business.

Electricity and Magnetmania: Aug. 26 - 30, 12:30 - 3:30 pm Ages 7 - 11, $165 R/NR, M-F

Learn all about electronics and magnetism building exciting projects.

Descriptions, locations and registration: • April 2024 67

Bunny BASH

Drenching downpours on March 23 sent bunnies scurrying from Nash Park to Christopher Columbus Middle School to enjoy a morning of Bunny-themed activities thanks to the always resilient team at Clifton Recreation. Over 500 kids and families attended the indoor Bunny Bash, which included an Easter Parade, pogo stick bunny hopping, photos with the floppy-eared character and a basket of fun. Bonnets off to the Clifton Rec team that made it all work for Clifton families.

68 April 2024 • • April 2024 69
70 April 2024 •


If Tammy Murphy dropping out of the US Senate race to replace Bob Menendez is any indication, we should prepare ourselves for a political rollercoaster over the next few months.

The bumpy ride begins in Passaic County politics with the June 4 Primary. Teams are aligned and the party line is being tested in the 16 cities of Passaic County. There’s also a looming NJ Supreme Court decision on the so-called party line, brought by Senate candidate Andy Kim.

Looking to Nov. 5, one candidate will emerge to finish the late Lauren Murphy’s Clifton City Council term and three seats are up on the Board of Education. But many eyes will be on the election for Sheriff and County Commissioners. And, of course, on the two men topping the ballot: Joseph Biden and Donald Trump.

On the following pages is a snapshot of what we can expect now through June 4...

Clifton on the County Ticket

Dr. Assad Mujtaba cares about what he stands for — and the Clifton resident is ready to bring his values to the Passaic County Board of Commissioners.

Mujtaba, 38, announced his plan last month to run on the Republican ticket during the November election. The three seats currently held by Nicolino Gallo, Cassandra “Sandi” Lazzara, and John Bartlett will be open as their current terms expire Dec. 31.

In January of 2022, Gallo was sworn into office as the first Republican elected to the Board since the GOP won three seats in 2009.

“I think it’s time for change,” said Mujtaba. “People once looked at the Democratic Party as the party of diversity and the party of people who are not financially as well off, which is not true.”

Mujtaba would like to give Passaic County residents the tools that they need to “become more independent.”

“Passaic County has so much diversity that it’s become a melting pot, which is great, but we need a structure,” said Mujtaba.

“The Republican Party brings that and conservative values, including lower taxes, putting family first, and [upholding] parental rights,” he said.

A Diverse Upbringing

Mujtaba was born and raised in Queens as the second eldest of six children born to Gholam and Kay Mujtaba. Raised in a Pakistani-American household, Mujtaba saw from an early age how his parents engaged with their community.

Gholam is a former ROTC member who has extensive experience in U.S. and Pakistan political and policy work. Kay planted strong roots in her community as a dedicated pharmacist in Clifton and Director of Interfaith at Canaan Baptist Church.

Mujtaba received a Doctor of Medicine and MBA in Atlanta, Georgia. He pursued a Postgraduate in Internal Medicine from the University of Edinburgh and transitioned to nursing with a Master of Science in Nursing and a PostMaster’s Advanced Certificate in Family Practitioner from Molloy College. Mujtaba completed his education with a Doctor of Nursing Practice from NYU.

Mujtaba has lived in Clifton for five years with wife Mehjabeen, a nurse practitioner in Paterson, and their two daughters Leviza, 15, and Eliza, 10. Mujtaba operated a clinic in front of City Hall, 900 Clifton Ave., for three years. In February, the former Mujtaba Clinic merged with All Health Medical, located at 859 Clifton Ave.

Thomas Adamo, Cassandra Lazzara, Rodney De Vore and John Bartlett.
72 April 2024 •

“I saw a lot of diversity in my upbringing,” said Mujtaba. “I understand Clifton and [its people], because I live in town and I work in town. I see people coming in and get along with them.”

Focusing on high enrollment in schools is one area of interest. Mujtaba mentioned advocating for the county to “be more conducive toward private and charter schools” to help “lift the burden off public schools.”

Doing more community events and staying visible are other ways that Mujtaba believes will help Passaic County to flourish.

“Community involvement as a child helps develop a better society in the long run,” he said.

Who’s on the Ballot?

Mujtaba may be the candidate who is the closest to home for our city’s residents, but Clifton and Passaic County voters have a unique decision to make for the June 4 Primary Election — which Wayne resident they want as the 50th Sheriff of Passaic County.Thomas Adamo won the endorsement of the Passaic County Democratic Organization and will face former Sheriff Jerry Speziale, who in late February announced an independent bid for the Democratic nomination in the June primary.


As we went to press, the winner would take on Passaic County Regular Republican Organization pick, Marla Saracino, for the Nov. 5 General Election. Saracino is the first woman to seek the sheriff’s office as a candidate.

The upcoming sheriff’s election is not taking place in its usual year.

The late Richard H. Berdnik was sworn in as the 49th Sheriff of Passaic County on Jan. 1, 2011. The Clifton native spent his 28-year career with the Clifton Police Department and was in the middle of his fifth term as the Sheriff when he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Jan. 23. Berdnik (CHS 1978) had nearly two years remaining on his term at the time of his death. For voting details, visit

Jerry Speziale, Sean Duffy, Pedro Liranzo and Derya Taskin. • April 2024 73

Thomas Adamo for Sheriff

The Passaic County Democratic Organization selected Adamo over five other candidates who sought Party support.

Adamo comes from a law enforcement family. His father was a Paterson Police Officer, one of his brothers is a retired Paterson Police Officer, and his younger brother, Michael, serves as a Clifton Police Officer. Adamo, himself, works as a Chief in the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, where he began his career as a Corrections Officer.

Library and Museum Board of Directors and previously served as Deputy Mayor in the City of Paterson.

Running alongside Adamo for the three open Passaic County Commissioners seats on the Democratic ticket are Cassandra “Sandi” Lazzara, Rodney De Vore, and John Bartlett.

Lazzara is the Board’s Deputy Director and was first elected in 2016. She spent over 25 years in the education sector and currently serves on the Board’s Administration & Finance, Budget, and Public Works committees. Bartlett is the Board’s Director and was first elected in 2012. He has served on all of the Board’s standing committees and is a Partner in Murphy Orlando LLC.

De Vore is the only newcomer on the Democrat’s slate of commissioners. He served as a former aide to Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter and currently works as a gradelevel coordinator in the Office of Student Success for Passaic County Technical-Vocational Schools.

Jerry Speziale for Sheriff

Speziale is currently the Director of Public Safety for the City of Paterson.

He was first elected as the Sheriff of Passaic County in 2001, as well as two consecutive times in 2004 and 2007. He planned a fourth run before resigning in August of 2010. Speziale previously worked in the NYPD and became an undercover narcotics officer in the south Bronx during the height of the crack epidemic.

Running as “Team Speziale Democrats for Passaic County,” the independent slate includes Sean Duffy, Derya Taskin, and Pedro Liranzo as candidates for Passaic County Commissioner.

Duffy is a captain in the Paterson Fire Department and son of long-time Commissioner Terry Duffy. He is also a former elected member of the Wayne Board of Education.

Taskin, a business owner and immigrant from Turkey, is the Chief Executive Officer of Taskin Bakery in Paterson. She’s a current Commissioner for Paterson’s Public

Liranzo emigrated from the Dominican Republic in 1992 and became a small business owner in Paterson. He is a former Deputy Mayor in the City of Paterson and served as the city’s Chief Transportation Inspector.

Marla Saracino for Sheriff

Later this year marks Saracino’s 25th year with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Detective Captain joined the office in 1999 and was moved two years later to the Narcotics Task Force. She has remained there and has risen through the ranks to Sergeant and then to Lieutenant, and she is now Captain of that force.

Saracino’s promise if she is elected in November is twofold: being tougher on drug traffickers and supporting individuals and their families struggling with substance use disorders.

The Republican ticket includes incumbent Nicolino Gallo and newcomers Dr. Assad Mujtaba and William Cytowicz as candidates for Passaic County Commissioner.

Gallo is finishing out his first term on the Board, where he serves on the Law & Public Safety Committee and the Planning & Economic Development Committee. He immigrated with his family to the United States as a young boy in 1974 and became a self-made entrepreneur.

Cytowicz is a Salesperson at Econo-Courier, according to LinkedIn, and ran for a seat on the West Milford Board of Education in 2022. As of December 2022, he became a Certified Board Member of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

If you think June 4 is shaping up to be interesting, Murphy ending her U.S. Senate run cleared the path for Rep. Andy Kim to win the Democratic nomination in the primary. As for a judicial ruling on the Kim-supported office block ballot for the primary, which would group candidates by the office they’re seeking rather than party backing — that’ll also come down after we head to press.

Marla Saracino, Nicolino Gallo, Assad Mujtaba and William Cytowicz.

Expressions Through Art & Wood is displayed April 3 through April 27 at the Clifton Arts Center. See the ways art is created by traditional painting and through the medium of wood as created by members of The Tuesday Painters and North Jersey Woodcarvers. A reception is April 13 from 1-4 pm. Visit Wednesdays through Saturdays 1-4 pm. Call the Arts Center office for more info: 973-472-5499.

Make your mom Gifts from the Sea on May 4 at the Clifton Arts Center. Instructor Mary Ann Baskinger offers a 3D workshop for kids grade 5 to 9, utilizing natural and manufactured materials to design a jewelry box. Cost: $25; $30 non-residents. Register at

Power of One’s team of walkers meet on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 am at Richardson Scale Park, 680 Van Houten Ave. for an hour-long walk. Free.

Clifton Rec’s Sundae Bingo is April 7 from 3-5 pm at the Community Rec Center, 1232 Main Ave. It is a family afternoon of prizes, ice cream sundaes and Bingo. Cost is $6 per person. Register a

St. Paul’s Rosary Society Fish & Chips is April 12 at the Parish Hall, 124 Union Ave. Take-out is 5-5:30 pm and eatin is 6 pm. Adults $20; 12 and under $10. Advance tickets only. Questions? Call Linda Darragh: 973-365-4006.

The Friends of the Clifton Public Library membership drive is April 8-13 at Main Memorial and the Allwood Branch. Get a form at: This 501(c)3 organization helps the library provide items and events and more. The Friends accepts monetary donations. The Friends meeting on April 16 is at 1 pm in the Main Library after which author Michael Gabriele will discuss his book, “Colonial Taverns of New Jersey.” The event is free. Call 973-772-5500 or visit

Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa, at center, received the key to Clifton on March 2 at New Jersey City University in an event aimed to strengthen the relationship between Clifton and sister city, Guayaquil, Ecuador. In attendance were Councilwoman Rosemary Pino, at right, who presented the key on behalf of Mayor Ray Grabowski and City Manager Dominick Villano.

Passaic County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof will be at Clifton City Hall, April 25, 10 am to 1 pm, offering services ranging from passport applications, notarizations and veterans ID cards. Those with appointments will be prioritized. Last visitors will be accepted 12:45. Find more details at or call 973-225-3690.

Relay for Life Clifton & Rutherford is May 4 at Clifton Stadium, 6-11:30 pm. Visit or write to to start a team. Take part at 10 pm in the Luminaria Ceremony, where homemade bag lanterns are decorated with the names of loved ones and are lit in honor and in memory of a life touched by cancer.

Your heart is in good hands. Clifton Rec and MSU’s Dept. of Rec’s Safety Rally is April 27 from 1-5 pm at MSU’s Rec Center on Webster Rd. Cost is $40 and includes a CPR module and written test for an American Red Cross certification. Register at before April 25. • April 2024 75

April 2024 Birthdays & Celebrations

37 on April 16.

Hawrylko, Joe’s wife,

35 on March 25. Mark Peterson will be 71 on April 5.


15 years on April 30.

45th anniversary is April 28.

Karen Goldey 4/1 Timothy Hayes 4/1 Stephanie L. Magaster ................ 4/1 Hetal Patel .................................... 4/1 Karen Schwartz ............................ 4/1 Raymond DeDios ......................... 4/3 Carl DiGisi .................................... 4/3 Eric Homsany ............................... 4/3 JoEllen Kenney-Illenye ................ 4/3 Kevin John Lord ............................ 4/3 Greg Alexander ........................... 4/4 Joey Scotto ................................... 4/4 Bo Franko ..................................... 4/5 Sabrina Greco 4/5 Wafa Othman 4/5 Bob Tanis 4/5 Joe Franek 4/6 Sharon J. Koribanics 4/6 Carmela Meglio 4/6 Jessica Mondelli 4/6 Emma Rozewski 4/6 Luke Kulesa 4/7 Donna Mangone 4/7 George Sadiv 4/7 Patricia Colman 4/8 Sheryll Franko 4/8 Jackie Henderson 4/8 Jeff Murcko ................................... 4/8 Emma Gretina .............................. 4/9 Kathy Krisinski .............................. 4/9 Brian Firstmeyer.......................... 4/11 Leila Gasior ................................ 4/11 Felipe Rivera ............................... 4/11 Erin Smith .................................... 4/11 Debbie Tucker ............................ 4/11 Alice Shanley Babinski .............. 4/12 Josh Ontell .................................. 4/13 William Parks III ......................... 4/13 Alexander John Mosciszko 4/14 Lisa Kulesa 4/15 Adam Pienciak 4/15 Kurt Irizarry 4/16 Robert Monzo 4/16 Linda Humphrey 4/17 Joseph P. Koribanics 4/17 Maura Coleman 4/19 Jason Dubnoff 4/19 Jennifer O’Sullivan 4/19 Bryan Rodriguez 4/19 John Anderson 4/20 Joe Hawrylko turns 39 on
his little brother Tom Hawrylko
Jr. is
John & Donna
Damian Robert Calvo will be 18 on April 13. 76 April 2024 •

No foolin’! Ken Peterson (CHS ‘08) and Nicole Rosoline (PC ‘08) cruised to their First Anniversary on April 1.

Jeff Camp ..................................

Greg Nysk ..................................

Alicia Rose Aste ........................

Lori Hart

Alyssa Tucker 4/22

Bobby Ventimiglia 4/22

Danny Gorun 4/23

John Pogorelec, Jr. 4/23

Marc Scancarella 4/23

Katie Michelotti 4/25

Brianna A. Pastore 4/25

Klondike Tresca

Buddy Czyzewski 4/26

Stephanie Magaster 4/26

Jillian Mangone

Annie Pogorelec

Elise Termyna

Mike Grimaldi

Michael Press .............................

Peter Chudolij ............................

April Graham ............................

Stephen Camp, Jr. .....................

Paul Colman ..............................

Heather Halasz ......................... 4/29

Christine Klein 4/29

Send May dates & names...

4/29 • April 2024 77


St. Peter’s Haven presents the annual Bloomin’ 5K & 1 Mile Walk on April 28. While the goal is to get out and get moving, your entry fee will help end hunger and homelessness. Registration is open at or Kick-off at Main Memorial Park, 1395 Main Ave., at 8:30 am. Every level of runners and walkers are welcome. Funds raised go toward supporting the Haven’s homeless family shelters and food pantry — the only in Clifton that serves approximately 3,600 individuals monthly. Beat the fastest 5K times held by Issam El Jazouli (14:57.3) or Cassandra Raia, pictured above clocking in at 19:43, for a bonus cash prize.

78 April 2024 •
Tomahawk Promotions 1288 Main Avenue Clifton, NJ 07011 PRSRT STD U.S. PoSTage PAID PeRmiT No. 280 LaNc. Pa 17604 “The Established Leader” 1624 Main Ave. Clifton, NJ 07011 NICHOLAS TSELEPIS Broker/ Owner Top 1% Realtor in New Jersey FredSpoelstra BrokerAssociate DavidKelley SalesAssociate LintonGaines BrokerAssociate NancyRodriguez SalesAssociate WendellMaki BrokerAssociate AngelaCardenas SalesAssociate PatriciaElmahdy SalesAssociate SophiaConstandinou SalesAssociate AlexandraConstandinou BrokerAssociate WalterPorto SalesAssociate RoselysRamirez SalesAssociate CesarGuzman SalesAssociate JuanaTorres BrokerAssociate AngelicaSaenz SalesAssociate SheylaEsdaile SalesAssociate RaquelFamilia SalesAssociate MicahFrancis SalesAssociate JoannaArias SalesAssociate BobbyPersaud SalesAssociate NinaRobayo SalesAssociate DennyCruz SalesAssociate GladysMesones SalesAssociate AlbertoMesonesJr. SalesAssociate MaribelFeliz SalesAssociate BUYING OR SELLING Call Today & Start Packing! (973) 859-2270 CLIFTON $850,000 CALLING BUILDERS & DEVELOPERS HAWTHORNE $599,000 UNIQUE HOME ON 0.6 ACRE LOT CLIFTON $399,000 2-FAM HOME IN NEED OF REHAB RUTHERFORD $999,000 STATELY BRICK COLONIAL ORADELL $569,900 RENOVATED COLONIAL HOME CLIFTON $650,000 TWO FAMILY HOME. 3 STORY. Clifton Homeowners Thinking of Selling? We Have Buyers for Your Area, they are Paying Top Dollar! Call Us Today and Start Packing!

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.