Provided/From left top row, Vincent D’Alessandro, OceanFirst Bank president of community & retail banking; Cindy Crager, assistant vice president for University Advancement; Brigid Harrison, chair of the Stockton Foundation Board of Directors; Terricita Sass, Stockton executive vice president and chief of staff; Stockton President Joe Bertolino; and Katherine Durante, executive director of the OceanFirst Foundation. Bottom row, Laura Leonel of Long Branch, Louden Jobes of Neptune, and Dylan Geronimo of Hazlet Township are three of the 16 recipients of a $2,500 scholarship.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – The OceanFirst Foundation continued its longtime support of Stockton University students by presenting a check on Dec. 4 for $40,000 to fund 16 scholarships.

“Since 2017, OceanFirst Foundation has been committed to supporting Stockton University students by investing in scholarships. I’m pleased to share that, to date, OceanFirst has awarded $320,000 in scholarships to Stockton students,” foundation Executive Director Katherine Durante said. “We look forward to continuing this valuable partnership in 2024.”

OceanFirst Bank President of Community & Retail Banking Vincent D’Alessandro said the foundation was established to support the needs of the families that live in the bank’s footprint.

“We want to be a bank that’s first considered to be an organization that cares about community,” he said. “We hear the stories from the kids who benefit from our scholarships and how meaningful it is.

Stockton President Joe Bertolino thanked the OceanFirst Foundation for its continued support of the scholarship, which has benefited 128 Stockton students over eight years.

“The vast majority of our students come from working class families. Even with scholarship support, many of our students still have to work to make ends meet and to meet the responsibilities of their families,” he said. “The stressors on individuals have changed in a post-COVID world. I think anything we can do to help support students, alleviate their stress and remind them that they matter, and they are valued is extraordinarily important.”

Three of the fall 2023 scholarship recipients told D’Alessandro and Durante how important the awards were to funding their education.

“Toward the end of the summer I was still missing a large chunk of money to pay for the fall and I was freaking out that I would have to take out a loan and pay for it myself,” Laura Leonel of Long Branch said. “But then I got an email from OceanFirst stating that I had won the scholarship. So, I was able to live in a dorm, pay for a meal plan and my education this semester.”

Finances were also a concern for Louden Jobes of Neptune.

“The OceanFirst scholarship has really helped alleviate some of the stressors with finding money,” he said. “The debt was scaring me a lot and this scholarship is helping me push that off so I can focus more on my education instead of how I’m going to pay for next semester.”

Dylan Geronimo of Hazlet Township said the costs of college have put a strain on his family.

“Finances are very important to me and my family. We don’t have a lot of money,” he said. “Now, I don’t really need to worry about how I’m going to pay for college this year.”

Scholarships not only support students financially, but also help with their mental health, said foundation board Chairwoman Brigid Harrison, Class of 1988.

“This kind of encouragement and vote of confidence is something students will carry with them into their careers and into their personal lives,” she said. “Your corporation is to be commended for prioritizing that as a mission and listening to the community.”

Recipients of a $2,500 scholarship for 2023-2024 are Sydney Ables, Brendan Bradley, Nicholas Brennan, JaQuez Carr-Morton, Abby Dreyer, Gabriella Petris, Dylan Geronimo, Louden Jobes, Caitlin Kisielius, Laura Leonel, Christopher Liguori, Trevor Magill, Josephine Mitchell, Lily Natalino, Cameron Radcliffe and Javier Vega.



Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.