Just before Valentine’s Day 2014, my grandmother and grandfather, Olympia and Michael DeNittis, took their final breaths — 32 hours apart after a 67-year marriage. They were 95 and 94, and my grandfather was unaware that his childhood sweetheart had predeceased him hours earlier at the time of his passing. They grew up across the street from one another in Middlesex County and had known each other their entire lives. Their love story soon went viral. People around the world reached out and offered well-wishes, calling them heroes. Others noted that they were products of the post-World War II era, in which a cabinet maker and seamstress could attain a relatively comfortable, middle-class lifestyle.
I was committed to honoring their memory, and the next generation of New Jersey students who will pursue employment in the trades, like my grandparents did. I researched the costs of trade school and available scholarship opportunities, and realized that, for some, such schooling can be cost-prohibitive. The 67 Foundation (named for the number of years in my grandparents’ marriage) was launched in 2015, seeking to help local students reach their professional goals.
All of us rely on skilled trade, whether we need a plumber in the middle of the night or a medical assistant at our local health centers. The 67 Foundation supports New Jersey students who embody the spirit and work ethic of Michael and Olympia DeNittis as they pursue trade or vocational education.
Depending on our fundraising success, we would like to increase both the number of scholarships awarded and the amount. The need is great throughout New Jersey, and we never want to see a lack of financial support keep a hardworking student from pursuing a vocational program that will open doors for them down the road.
We offer scholarship support to local students who are pursuing trade or vocational education at a qualified institution. Students chosen have received the enthusiastic support of teachers, guidance counselors and members of their community.
In 2017, we awarded scholarships to two students — Kayla Sosnovich, a Woodbridge High School graduate, who is studying to become an esthetician, and Georgia Sabran, a Monroe Township High School graduate who is studying to become a licensed practical nurse at Lincoln Tech.
We have held restaurant night fundraisers and bake sales. Since we’re still new and getting the word out about The 67 Foundation, most of our support has come from neighbors, friends and colleagues who believe in the mission.
Many supporters acknowledge that we need to do more to encourage young people to consider a career in the trades. The benefits are significant — it helps New Jersey’s youth embark on a career path where demand for their services will be high, and it also helps New Jersey consumers access the skilled labor on which we all rely. Some of our young applicants are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and our supporters realize that supporting a scholarship program will have a direct and immediate impact on a student’s life.
We want to award 67 scholarships — one for each year of Michael and Olympia’s marriage — but we need your support!
Serving: New Jersey high school students who are pursuing trade or vocational education after they graduate.
Key members: AnnMarie McDonald, founder and president; Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles, treasurer; Ann McDonald, secretary.
For more information on The 67 Foundation, visit its website at the67foundation.org.