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Group photo of Marie Tonini, Jenelle McLeod and Genaya Palmer honored at the “Celebrating Our Rising Stars” reception at Brach Eichler in Roseland, New Jersey.

Caldwell, N.J. – Three Caldwell University students received graduate merit awards from the Executive Women of New Jersey on Dec. 12. Marie Tonini, Jenelle McLeod and Genaya Palmer were honored at the “Celebrating Our Rising Stars” reception at Brach Eichler in Roseland, New Jersey. They students were thrilled to receive the awards, all agreeing that the scholarship support came at the right time for them.  Ellina Chernobilsky, associate vice president of academic affairs at Caldwell, attended the awards reception and said it was wonderful to celebrate Caldwell’s rising stars.

EWNJ’s mission is to ensure that women have equal opportunity and representation in senior corporate leadership. Through its mentor and Graduate Merit Award programs, the organization aims to establish a pipeline for future women leaders to excel and to flourish in corporate spaces.

Tonini, an alum of Caldwell’s bachelor in psychology program, is studying in the school counseling graduate program. A mother of five children, most of them grown, she has been working a full-time job and a part-time job while going to school. She hopes to pursue a career in high school career counseling and to help young people find “their direction, their niche.” Tonini is grateful to the Caldwell faculty, especially adjunct faculty member Professor Jill Hall.

McLeod, a graduate student in the master’s in counseling program, said the EWNJ award was important to her “because as women we need to be able to recognize other women and their achievements and help propel them to the next level … it makes us greater,” she said. The award “allows us to reflect woman to woman on how great we are, how much power we possess in progressing our families, our places of work, places of worship, where we go to school.” She looks forward to building connections with the women who are involved in EWNJ.

McLeod has been interning at MacAfee Elementary School in Somerset in pre-K through fifth grade. She would like to use her love for children and her interest in mind behavior and human interaction and to gear her studies toward the needs of African-American boys in the school system. “It is important as a parent and an African-American woman—something that drives me every day in the field.” McLeod has her sights on becoming a school counselor and running a nonprofit to help women and children, especially the economically disadvantaged. She appreciates her professors, who have helped her hone her craft. “It’s like a tight-knit family at Caldwell; I know I am never left alone.” She is also grateful she was able to join the cohort that traveled to Italy during spring break to explore the foundations of the Dominican tradition in Rome.

Palmer is pursuing her master’s in the mental health counseling/art therapy specialization program. She appreciates the curriculum since she can combine her passion for learning how the mind functions, her “innate interest in being able to create,” and helping people. Palmer, who works part time in disability services in Passaic County and has attended Catholic schools all her life, looks forward to being of service in Paterson, the community where she grew up. She is also happy the art therapy program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.