Program Focus: Scholarship Brunch Honors Special Group of Kids
November 30, -0001 | by Ken Ilchuk
It’s one of the best days of the LIJSL calendar. Every July, the league gets the opportunity to honor some of the best and brightest student-athletes on Long Island at the annual LIJSL Scholarship Brunch. In all, $25,000 in awards was given to 21 graduating seniors this year during an uplifting and sometimes moving ceremony at the Huntington Hilton.
"Your parents, teachers and coaches have prepared you for the next step in life," LIJSL President Addie Mattei-Iaia told the recipients. "We are calling on you, as we need great leadership in our country.”
The benefactors of the program are the Long Island Junior Soccer League, league sponsors Eurosport and Modell’s, and several families who remember deceased loved ones who served or played in the league in some capacity.
Back in 1980, Howard Rubenstein, at the behest of then LIJSL President Peter Collins, established the first guidelines for a scholarship program that awarded $300 based on financial need to one boy and one girl. In 2001, the league had expanded to 12 scholarships. Now, 33 years later, the program has grown exponentially, while the criteria has come to encompass many factors.
Nominees must be a graduating high school senior with a minimum GPA of 75, shown involvement in extra-curricular activites and community service activities, and have plans to attend a university, college, or trade school following graduation. They must have also competed for at least five seasons in the LIJSL, including participation for at least one season during the player’s junior or senior year in high school.
This year, a new scholarship was awarded in memory of Michael Secko, a longtime soccer volunteer, coach, and LIJSL Games Chairman. His family has provided financial support for the award and will perpetuate his scholarship going forward.
Another unique story is that of Corey Birsner, a graduate of Lindenhurst High School and a member of the West Babylon S.C. On his way to graduation, Corey had to overcome many obstacles such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, unilateral hearing loss, and ADHD. His special education teacher, Mr. Robert deGeronima said, "When all is said and done, Corey will be the most successful student to ever be associated with the special education program at Lindenhurst High School."
"My disabilities will always be part of who I am,” Corey said. “But I learned courage, determination, and perseverance on the soccer field."
Corey will attend Rochester Institute of Technology where he will major in Mechanical engineering and play soccer. He’s just one example of the many great youngsters who are learning valuable lessons through their LIJSL soccer experience.
To view the full list of this year's recipients, as well as past winners click here.