Elyse Ryan, Hammonton High Class of 2022 president, is the winner of the 2022 Hammonton Rotary Club Foundation Scholarship.
The annual scholarship recognizes community service, leadership and academics. Ryan demonstrated achievement in all three during her time at Hammonton High School.
She served as class president in her junior and senior years, and vice president as a sophomore. Much of her time as class president was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made student body projects and promoting school spirit extra challenging to organize.
As class president, she initiated a Comfy Cozy Drive for HHS to collect and share comfort items during the pandemic. The Class of 2022 partnered with the Hammonton Family Success Center to collect hot chocolate, coloring books, colored pencils, fidgets and candles to boost the morale of students in need. The class also collected donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.
Other projects included creating inclusive class T-shirts to promote unity during a time when many were feeling disconnected. To make sure that everyone could have a class shirt, extras were ordered, with the help of the administration, so all students could get one.
With some extra planning, the class came together to decorate the senior class hallway, too.
“I hosted outdoor social distanced gatherings, where students wore masks and could help with preparing our hallway,” Ryan said. “Our theme for the hallway was, ‘We Are All One.’ All members of our class had the opportunity to contribute to our hallway decorating, and many of us came to school to hang everything up. This uplifted the morale of the school during COVID-19.”
Her volunteer work extended beyond the walls of Hammonton High School.
She served as chairperson of the Coalition for a Safe Community in Atlantic County, Youth Committee, where she coordinated discussions with government officials, law enforcement and students from across the county on how to create safe communities, address social inequities and resolve issues in school districts.
She coordinated a teen summit with students from nine Atlantic County high schools at Atlantic Cape Community College on several topics including mindfulness, life after COVID, diversity and inclusion.
In reviewing her application, the Hammonton Rotary Club scholarship committee was inspired by the comments of her recommenders who described how Ryan put a priority on inclusion and unity, encouraging ESL students to participate, whether it was decorating for dances or collecting donations for causes.
She also persevered through a difficult time in her family. Her father lost his school district job when he was falsely accused by an off-duty police officer of a crime he did not commit, and endured a long, painful battle to restore his name and reputation.
Eventually the family’s story became part of a series in The Asbury Park Press called “Protecting the Shield.”
“’Protecting the Shield’ was a huge contribution to how a recent New Jersey law was passed, stating that New Jersey cops are not permitted to withhold discipline previously taken against them from future employers,” Ryan said in her scholarship essay. “I am part of that change.
“By being an integral part of an investigative series and holding student government positions, I have had the opportunity to advocate for justice within the community and the world.”
Ryan, who graduated 10th in her class, will be attending The College of New Jersey in the fall as a nursing student. After some time in the workforce, she intends to enroll in a graduate nurse anesthesia program with a goal of becoming a doctor of nursing practice in anesthesia, with a focus in global health and assisting underserved communities.
The $2,000 scholarship is funded by supporters and patrons of Hammonton Rotary Club events and fundraisers.
Ryan is the daughter of Michael and Nadine Ryan of Hammonton.