essex county commissioners honor young leaders for 20th annual “essex county celebrates youth”

Newark, NJ - Wednesday evening, April 24th, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its 20th annual “Essex County Celebrates Youth” event. It is held each year to acknowledge outstanding young people throughout the County for their accomplishments and hard work in academics, athleticism, community organizing, and more.

The honorees this year included Sasha Andrews of Newark, Leo Hirsch of Montclair, Anders Jenkins of Montclair, Rhyon Jones of Irvington, and the Jaguars Boys’ Basketball Team of East Orange Campus High School.

“Tonight, we stand in proud support of our honorees who have done so much already at such a young age. Their hard work and dedication to lifting up those around them give all of us hope for the future,” said Commissioner Vice President Tyshammie Cooper, who opened and closed the event. “We can feel confident that our county will continue to produce skilled and compassionate leaders to guide us as we move forward. Congratulations to all our honorees!”

Youth Minister Jadyn Jahzara Beckett, of Union Baptist Church in Montclair, delivered opening and closing prayers during the occasion. Musical accompaniment was provided by vocalists Zuri and Ava McCune. Honorees were also presented with certificates from Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (CD-11), and proclamations from State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (LD-29).

See more pictures of the event here. Watch a recording of the event here.



Sasha Andrews, presented by Commissioner A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, is a sophomore at Montclair State University, majoring in Exercise Science for Physical Therapy, with an interest in Neonatal Nursing. She is fulfilling the prerequisites for nursing concurrently with classes for her degree, so after graduation she can apply to medical school. Sasha plans to leave a mark on this world, to make changes to better her community in every way possible. Specifically, she wants to encourage and empower little Black girls who often feel alone and misunderstood. She feels a strong connection because she was once one of those little Black girls. As a mentor and motivational speaker, Sasha has used her role as a founding member and Peer Leader in SHE Wins to inspire girls and teach them the sky is the limit as long as they believe in themselves. Her faith sustains and supports this belief, and she always keeps God front and center in everything. Maintaining a 3.8 GPA, Sasha is a member of The National Honor Society at Montclair State University and has consistently been on the Dean’s List since her 2nd semester of freshman year. She is a hard worker committed to academic excellence. Sasha volunteers over 200 hours annually with a variety of community service projects. This summer as a Peer Leader for SHE Wins, she will be traveling to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to advocate for the rights of Black women and girls on a national platform.

Leo Hirsch, presented by Commissioner Brendan W. Gill and sponsored by Commissioner President Carlos M. Pomares, is currently a junior at Montclair High School. Last year, he founded the Autumn Leaves Foundation, which strives to create a more welcoming environment and provide resources to those struggling with eating disorders. Recently, Leo was able to bring his own experiences to help lead the first ever month-long eating disorder awareness social media campaign for both the Bloomfield and Essex County health departments. This included creating various graphics, providing important information and counsel to speakers, and sharing his own story through a personal interview. Through this experience, he hopes that the stigmas around eating disorders are reduced in our local community and Essex County can become a safer and more welcoming place for those affected. Outside of this work, Leo likes to maintain an engaged role in his community. Leo has founded a club at school, is an active member of the Jewish Student Union board, plays two school sports, and is the chair of the Mental Wellness Committee within a small learning community at his high school. Leo is a song leader at his temple and a member of the National Honor Society.

Anders Jenkins, presented by Commissioner Brendan W. Gill, is a junior at Montclair High School and has been on the Montclair Varsity Hockey team since his freshman year. He was the captain of his AAA Avalanche hockey club team, and volunteers with both youth hockey organizations and hockey for those with special needs. He will join the Jersey Hitmen’s AAA hockey club in the upcoming season. In addition to his accomplishments as a player, he is also a youth hockey referee where he has earned praise for his knowledge, control and sound judgment. Anders has also been working with the organization Friends of Clary Anderson Rink, alongside his father and community members petitioning the Town of Montclair to maintain and restore the rink as a valuable public asset. Both on and off the ice, in his capacity as a player and a referee, Anders has shown himself to be a role model for fairness and civility in the sport. Looking to the future, he has expressed a desire to pursue a career in therapy and counseling.

Rhyon Jones, presented by Commissioner A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, is a Senior at Seton Hall Preparatory High School with a GPA of 4.02. He is a member of the National Chinese Honor Society and has been part of the Tutoring Club since his sophomore year, where he tutors students in grades five to seven in math and grammar. Rhyon is also a Junior Intern at the Bethany Cares Freedom School, a six-week literary program that focuses on fostering the love of reading, civic action, and self-belief. Additionally, he volunteers every Sunday with BLAST, Bethany Baptist's Church youth church. Outside of school and volunteering, Rhyon works with his father at his restaurant, prepping and cooking. Rhyon loves to take pictures and draw. This September, he will be attending Rider University, majoring in Accounting and minoring in Graphic Design.

The 2023-2024 East Orange Campus High School Boys’ Basketball Team, the Jaguars, presented by Commissioner Vice President Tyshammie Cooper, enjoyed a stellar season. They overcame numerous obstacles and persevered to finish with a 23 - 6 overall record. Coach Gabe Baltimore's program has witnessed a transformative shift in culture, resulting in commendable achievements across freshman, JV, and varsity levels. The boys’ basketball varsity team boasts a commendable record of 97-45 (.683) over the past six years, clinching the SEC Liberty Division Championship in 2020 and securing a finalist position in the NJ Group 4, Section 1 final in 2024. Gabe Baltimore's coaching prowess has earned him accolades, including consecutive recognition as the Super Essex Conference American Division Coach of the Year by for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 seasons, along with the prestigious title of the New Jersey Basketball Coaches Association’s (NJBCA) Essex County Coach of the Year for 2023-2024. Several individual players have also earned All Super Essex Conference honors. For the SEC American Division, Kaiyri Barkley (Senior) and Eugene Byass (Senior) were selected First Team; Carlyle Adams (Junior) and James Roberts (Freshman) were selected Second Team; and Gavin Jones (Senior) and D’Maree Dyer (Senior) were selected Honorable Mention. Both Kaiyri Barkley and Eugene Byass were also selected to the NJBCA’s All Essex County Team, and Kaiyri Barkley was selected Second Team All-State Group 4 by The team’s varsity 2023-2024 roster includes: Jeremiah Samms (Junior), Da’maree Dyer (Senior), James Roberts (Freshman), Eugene Byass (Senior), Kaiyri Barkley (Senior), Amir Rosendary (Junior), Gavin Jones (Senior), Ryan English (Junior), Zechariah Lockett (Junior), Carlyle Adams (Junior), Melvin Okere (Senior), Cody Poole (Junior), Kyree Fisher (Senior), Tayshon Brown (Sophomore), Stageon King (Freshman), and Alfonso Watts (Junior).

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For Additional Information - Contact:
Adam Tucker, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
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