Local High School Students Awarded Scholarships for Advocacy and Support of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Seven New Jersey high school students were awarded scholarships from the Sharing Network Foundation for their passion and dedication to raising awareness of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. The 2024 graduates were presented with their scholarship awards at NJ Sharing Network’s headquarters in New Providence. The Sharing Network Foundation’s scholarships are made possible thanks to several of the organization’s family and partner funds:

Hearts for Emma Partner Fund - created in celebration of Emma Rothman’s lifesaving heart transplant to support high school education and donation advocacy efforts.

Jim Rhatican Scholarship Fund - created in memory of Jim Rhatican, a NJ Sharing Network Volunteer, liver transplant recipient and retired teacher and coach of 35 years.

Missy’s Miracle Scholarship Fund - created in celebration of Missy Rodriguez’s lifesaving liver transplant to follow her passion as a college counselor through scholarships for high school students.

Riley’s Path – created in memory of organ donor Riley Kogen to provide financial assistance to transplant patients in times of crisis, and to award scholarships to high school students and advocacy heroes.

Daniel S. Buckiewicz Scholarship Fund - created in memory of organ and tissue donor Dan Buckiewicz to encourage students to have conversations about donation with their families and friends.

The 2024 scholarship recipients are:

Nathaniel Attardi of Manasquan (2024 graduate of Wall High School) received a scholarship from the Riley's Path Fund. Nathaniel’s commitment to organ and tissue donation advocacy was inspired by his Uncle Pat Clay’s need for a kidney transplant. Witnessing his uncle’s struggle and eventual success with receiving a donor kidney highlighted the dire need for organ donors. Nathaniel actively participates in awareness events to promote organ and tissue donation. He emphasizes the importance of encouraging new drivers to consider registering as donors. His interactions with transplant recipients have reinforced his belief in the lifesaving power of donation. Nathaniel also focuses on dispelling myths and addressing concerns to alleviate fears about donation. He advocates for community campaigns and collaborations with medical professionals to raise awareness.

Anika Bhatnagar of Edison (2024 graduate of Middlesex Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences) received a scholarship from the Missy’s Miracle Scholarship Fund. Anika’s advocacy for organ donation was inspired by her father’s battle with IgA nephropathy and lifesaving kidney transplant in 2019. Recognizing the critical need for increased awareness, she began volunteering with the NJ Sharing Network in 2021. Anika organized educational booths, led fundraisers, and hosted livestreams to share stories of donors and recipients, including her parents' experience. She participated in panel discussions, leveraged social media, and partnered with local leaders to promote the cause. Her efforts included a mayoral proclamation for National Donate Life Month and public service announcements. Anika also established a Donate Life club at her high school to educate peers about organ donation. Her initiatives have earned her several awards, including the Student of the Year award from the Edison Chamber of Commerce and the Youth Volunteer award from NJ Sharing Network.

Lavarra (LJ) Hines of West Orange (2024 graduate of Newark Academy) received a scholarship from the Jim Rhatican Scholarship Fund. LJ’s advocacy for organ and tissue donation is inspired by his godfather, Dr. Randall Giles, a trauma surgeon and organ donor who saved multiple lives. Since age nine, LJ has volunteered at NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life, starting at the t-shirt giveaway tent and later as a photographer. These experiences taught him the importance of community service and the critical need for organ and tissue donors, particularly within the African American community. LJ has actively spread awareness by distributing educational materials at various events and using his 5K race shirts as conversation starters. LJ successfully arranged for NJ Sharing Network team members to present at his school to teach driver's education students about organ and tissue donation. His efforts have inspired many of his peers to register as donors.

Kimmy Kenny of Brick Township (2024 graduate of Brick Township High School) received a scholarship from the Jim Rhatican Scholarship Fund. Kimmy’s understanding and advocacy for organ and tissue donation stem from her firsthand experiences and aspirations. Inspired by a childhood skin graft surgery that was made memorable by her mother and compassionate doctors, Kimmy aims to become a Cardiovascular Transplant Physician. She emphasizes that transplants are life-changing, restoring not just physical health but also joy and normalcy to patients and their families. Kimmy is a registered organ and tissue donor, and she actively encourages others to do the same. Through her YouTube channel and personal interactions, Kimmy spreads awareness about the significance of organ donation, inspired by statistics showing a high demand for organs and low supply of donors.

Divakaran Manimaran of Piscataway (2024 graduate of Piscataway High School) received a scholarship from the Hearts for Emma Partner Fund. Divakaran's commitment to organ and tissue donation advocacy began in September 2021 when he volunteered at NJ Sharing Network's 5K Celebration of Life. Inspired by conversations with participants, including a heart transplant recipient and a mother who made the selfless decision to donate her son's organs, Divakaran co-founded the Donate Life Club (DLC) at his high school. The Piscataway High School DLC has been active in the community, hosting information stalls at local events and encouraging discussions about organ donation among students and their families. Under Divakaran's leadership, the DLC participated in over 20 events and raised over $1,300 for the Sharing Network Foundation. The club also received the “Excellence in Youth Education” award from Donate Life America.

Jack Miller of Robbinsville (2024 graduate of Robbinsville High School) received a scholarship from the Daniel S. Buckiewicz Scholarship Fund. Jack’s lifelong connection to organ and tissue donation stems from his personal experiences with his grandmothers. His paternal grandmother received a double lung transplant, and his maternal grandmother, who played a significant role in his upbringing, required a kidney transplant. Jack's father donated a kidney to save her life, reinforcing the family's commitment to organ donation. Jack actively shares his family’s organ donation stories, influencing friends and peers to register as organ and tissue donors. He proudly displays an organ donation sticker on his car and has participated in community events and activities to help raise awareness.

Delia Parretta of Wykoff (2024 graduate of Ramapo High School) received a scholarship from the Daniel S. Buckiewicz Scholarship Fund. Delia’s advocacy for NJ Sharing Network is deeply personal, inspired by her older cousin Marielle, who underwent three transplants due to biliary atresia. Witnessing Marielle's struggles, Delia chose to spread awareness about organ and tissue donation for her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She focused on new teen drivers, encouraging them to register as organ and tissue donors. Delia utilized TikTok, creating engaging content featuring her cats to attract viewers and dispel myths about organ and tissue donation. She also mailed informational pamphlets to driving schools in New Jersey and developed a digital presentation for driver's education classes in her school district, ensuring her message reached new drivers. Her efforts have led to tangible impacts, with many individuals registering as donors because of her project.

The Sharing Network Foundation’s scholarship program provides an opportunity to recognize and award graduating high school seniors whose lives have been touched by organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Applicants were measured on academic achievement, community and volunteer efforts, extracurricular activities and advocacy for organ and tissue donation. Since the scholarship program’s inception in 2011, more than $130,000 has been awarded to 65 dedicated student advocates.

“We are grateful for the generous support of our partner funds and their ongoing commitment to rewarding students who share a commitment to our lifesaving mission,” said Amanda Tibok, Executive Director, Sharing Network Foundation. “We know that all of our scholarship awardees will continue as strong leaders educating others about donation and transplantation throughout their college years and beyond.”

PHOTO CAPTION (Photo Credit” Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network)

(Standing left-to-right, holding scholarship award certificates) Nathaniel Attardi of Wall High School, Lavarra (LJ) Hines of Newark Academy, Delia Parretta of Ramapo High School, Anika Bhatnagar of Middlesex Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences, Divakaran Manimaran of Piscataway High School, Jack Miller of Robbinsville High School, and Kimmy Kenny of Brick Township High School. (Standing left-to-right with the scholarship recipients) Amanda Tibok, Executive Director, Sharing Network Foundation, Ryan Rhatican of the Jim Rhatican Scholarship Fund, Mitch Kogen of the Riley's Path Fund, Missy Rodriguez of the Missy’s Miracle Scholarship Fund, Nancie Rothman of the Hearts for Emma Partner Fund, Jane and Bruce Buckiewicz of the Daniel S. Buckiewicz Scholarship Fund, Jay Rhatican of the Jim Rhatican Scholarship Fund, and Debbie Prince, Chair of the Sharing Network Foundation Programs & Initiatives Committee.

About NJ Sharing Network

NJ Sharing Network, headquartered in New Providence, NJ, is the federally designated non-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) focused on saving and enhancing lives through the recovery of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State. NJ Sharing Network partners with an extensive network of 54 local hospitals to provide hope for the nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, and it is part of the national recovery system for the over 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list. For five consecutive years, NJ Sharing Network has reported organ donation records, and more than three million New Jerseyans are registered as organ and tissue donors, according to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC). Among the top performing OPOs in the nation, NJ Sharing Network has been recognized by NJBIZ for six consecutive years as one of the state’s ‘Best Places to Work.’ To learn more, get involved, and join the National Donate Life Registry as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.

About the Sharing Network Foundation

The Sharing Network Foundation supports the work of NJ Sharing Network, the federally designated non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State. The Foundation is committed to increasing the number of lives saved through clinical advancement, family support, public awareness and education about the lifesaving benefits of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. For more information or to make a contribution, visit www.SharingNetworkFoundation.org.


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