2008-06-20 / Community

Shooting Star Nanayaa Serwaa

By Christine Cea

Picture: Nanayaa Serwaa on the night of the award ceremony. Picture: Nanayaa Serwaa on the night of the award ceremony. Over a couple of glasses of wine and a buffet dinner at their 50th reunion, the attending members of the Far Rockaway High School class of 1957 decided that they wanted to do something for the school, even though they were 50 years removed from both the school and the community.

What they learned about the poor graduation rate and the announcement that F.R.H.S. would be closed, they were not sure that there was anything they could do. However, they plowed ahead with a plan to provide a scholarship for an outstanding student.

At the ceremony which brought the past and the present together on June 2, 2008, they presented Nanayaa Serwaa with the Class of '57 Scholarship.

"Nothing could dim the happiness that beamed from our winner's face," remarked Irene Shapiro, speaking of Nanayaa Serwaa, recent graduate of Far Rockaway High School. Shapiro, a graduate of '57, remarked that Serwaa was "dazzling," one of the many compliments uttered.

Dazzling indeed, as Serwaa appears to be one of the last shooting stars of a place that will soon be dark.

Originally from Chicago and now a New Yorker, Serwaa learned very quickly that hard work would help her soar to high places. She comments that she began high school with a more relaxed attitude, but stepped up when awakening to the reality of the importance of school. "I stayed up late into the night…stayed after school….utilized tutoring centers… ," remarks Serwaa. "This experience developed in me a strong work ethic and a relentless drive to put forth nothing but the best in my studies." This admirable ethic began to dominate Serwaa's life. She was exactly what the Class of 1957 was looking for.

The idea of a scholarship sprung from '57 graduate Nick Papouchis, who had received a scholarship when he graduated. The group then went to work to find the perfect applicant.

Serwaa's credentials were outstanding. High average and test scores, dozens of clubs and activities in school, and active in her community - these positives governed her resume. But what struck the class the most was Serwaa's character. She was applauded for being able to adapt to a new city so quickly (she moved to New York in 2006), praised for fighting tough financial circumstances, and for tackling any situations and problems she faces, head on.

For example, Serwaa was involved in an intense internship at a nursing home. She claims that it was difficult at times "to stomach many of the things" she saw. Instead of escaping the situation, she was further inspired, claiming things she saw helped her realize how she can help, matured her and inspired her to follow a career in medicine.

She is passionately planning her future: where she will go to medical school, how she will pay for that, and if she will need to take a year off to gather money and gain an LPN license. "Their generosity and gift will NOT be in vain," she claims, thus again proving her determined nature.

Serwaa cannot thank the Class of '57 enough, and members of the class cannot seem to halt praise for the winner, showing that the scholarship was a perfect fit. The class is still attempting to find more donations, firmly believing in the beauty of aiding the success of a young and worthy woman, and is calling on all '57 graduates to provide further help.

Although the ceremony was described to have a "small turnout" and placed in a basement with "dingy blue walls," those who spoke about it have no negative reactions. Thanks to the combination of the generous class of '57 and the genuine, diligent nature of Serwaa, all ended with delight, satisfaction, and optimism for the future of Nanayaa Serwaa.

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