essex county commissioners hold their 18th annual “essex county celebrates youth” event

The Essex County Board of County Commissioners 2022 “Essex County Celebrates Youth” Event.

Pictured are honorees Kimberly Gonzalez (top row, middle), Nishna Makala (top row, right) and Makenna G. Davis (middle row, center). Also pictured (counterclockwise from top left) are Clerk of the Board – Deborah Davis Ford, Commissioner Patricia Sebold, Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson, Commissioner Tyshammie L. Cooper, and Commissioner Robert Mercado.

(Newark, NJ) –  On Tuesday, April 26, 2022, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its 2022 Essex County Celebrates Youth Event via Zoom teleconference. The event is held yearly to acknowledge outstanding young people throughout the County who have accomplished and contributed so much at such a young age.

Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson began the program with opening remarks speaking to the honoree’s impressive displays of community service, as well as the bright future of Essex County with them leading the way. “Tonight, I stand in proud support of our youth as we recognize their accomplishments. Our line-up of honorees is quite impressive, and they give all of us hope for the future.” He continued, “We can feel confident that our county will continue to produce competent doctors, lawyers, legislators, and community leaders to guide us as we move forward.” This year, the Board recognized: Makenna G. Davis of South Orange; Kimberly Gonzalez of Newark; Nishna Makala of Livingston; and Derrick Ogega of Irvington.

Makenna G. Davis is a senior at Columbia High School and is a very active student scholar. She is the captain of the Varsity Track and Field team, a member of the Varsity Soccer team, plays violin in the Chamber Orchestra and is a member of the National Honor Society all while maintaining a 3.5 GPA. She gives back to her community by participating in the Achievement Community Executive Board, which aims to close the academic achievement gap for Black and Latino students at Columbia High School. She has served as an Executive Board Member, Treasurer and Fundraising Chair to the Greater Essex County Chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc., and is Co-Founder of the Mapso Youth Coalition – an organization of local youth who share a passion for racial justice, education, and action.

Kimberly Gonzalez is a senior at Technology High School, and is in her second term as a Student Representative for the Newark Board of Education. As a Student Representative, she is the voice for 30,000+ students in the district, and serves as an approachable point of contact for students to bring up their concerns. She has been a Student Council member since her freshman year, a Community Service Group Leader during her sophomore and junior year, and is the President of her graduating class. As part of her efforts serving the community, she has spent time with senior citizens at the New Vista Nursing Home, collected and distributed scarves at Penn Station to the less fortunate, created and distributed care packages at Newark Emergency Services for Families, and spent time reading to young children at Roberto Clemente Elementary School.

Nishna Makala is a sophomore at Livingston High School and grew up in a household that emphasized the importance of education, and awareness about current events. As a seventh grader, she became a student member of the League of Women Voters because she wanted to get more involved in the community, learn about government, and educate others in the process. In December of 2020, she started a junior chapter of the League of Women Voters at Livingston High School to address the gap between lawmakers and young people. The main focus of the organization is to promote voting and voting rights, but it also focuses on amplifying student voices and activism. She was part of the League of Women voters amid a time of flourishing social movements like #MeToo, Climate Action Now, and Black Lives Matter, which inspired her to petition for racial equity at Livingston Public Schools. She is also the Director of Research and Development at the Women in STEM Club, a Lincoln-Douglas debater, and regularly writes film critiques on her Medium blog.

Derrick Ogega is an Honor Roll Student. He takes his academics very seriously and seeks to experience new things that build positive character, strength and values. He was born in Kenya and emigrated with his family to America in 2015. Upon his arrival, he attended elementary school in Hillside before moving to Irvington. In November 2021, his desire to serve led him to be an active member of The Bridge, Incorporated – an Irvington School Based Youth Services Program. He also participates with Oasis Monthly Food Distribution, and worked at the Irvington Food Pantry which provides peer to peer leadership. In his spare time, he is an avid basketball player and teaches Bible Studies to children. His desire for peace, truth and justice, has him focused on his future goal of being the pastor of a community church that caters to the needs of all people.

Minister Andrew Johnson of St. Paul Baptist Church in Montclair delivered prayers during the occasion, and the audience was captivated by the musical talents of three siblings Mecadon, Zuri and Ava McCune.

To view the event in its entirety, click here:

Looking for more information on the Essex County Board of Commissioners? The Essex County Commissioners Mobile App is now available for download on the Apple and Google Play Stores.

For Additional Information – Contact:
Kyalo Mulumba, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5695 (fax)
Follow Us:


(973) 621-4486


(973) 621-5695


Board of County Commissioners,
County of Essex
465 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.,
Room 558 Hall of Records,
Newark, New Jersey 07102