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Suburban Family Stars
Each month, Stars features exceptional students, student-athletes, educators and all-around boons to the South Jersey area.

by Staff

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Lynn Ritter
Seneca High School Family and Consumer Science teacher and coordinator, Lynn Ritter, received the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Spirit of Advising Award earlier this month. She is recognized for the support and guidance that she provides students as a chapter adviser and as an avid supporter of the school’s culinary program, child development and fashion design. Ritter was honored as a New Jersey FCCLA Rookie (Advisor) of the Year in 2002, and will receive her 2024 FCCLA Spirit of Advising Award in Seattle, Washington, this summer. 

Aleanna Harris
The South Jersey-born illustrator and artist graduated from the University of the Arts with a BFA in animation, which led to her work being featured in several published picture books. Her upcoming illustrations in the book A Song For August: The Inspiring Life of Playwright August Wilson will debut this August. As Harris works with authors to bring these stories to life and to both educate and entertain readers of all ages, a lot of her work centers around historical figures and important real-life events. Some examples include Marvelous Mabel: Figure Skating Superstar, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight and many more.

Meredith Howell-Turner
A Collingswood resident and an educator with nearly two decades of experience, Howell-Turner became the new assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Collingswood and Oaklyn Public Schools. She brings her knowledge of the local region and its school systems from her former roles of middle school social studies teacher, assistant principal, elementary school principal, and deputy assistant superintendent of the Camden City School District. Howell-Turner also understands the school district from an inside perspective as a Collingswood High School alumna and a parent of two Collingswood elementary students.

Commissioner Melinda Kane
A Camden County resident for more than four decades, this teacher, small business owner, mother and advocate has devoted herself to her community in many aspects. Commissioner Kane is an American Gold Star Mother after tragically losing her son, Marine LCPL Jeremy Kane, while he was serving in Afghanistan. In addition to actively supporting organizations that benefit veterans and military families, she spearheads the Veteran’s Affairs department in her role as commissioner, among several other integral departments. Her community efforts extend to the local Jewish community as a founding member of Congregation Kol Ami and a board member of the Katz Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Service of SNJ.

Josh Gatesman
The Medford youth entrepreneur, St. Augustine’s Preparatory School junior and athlete conceptualized his own company and T-shirt designs with a noble cause. Gatesman’s United Athletic Company benefits youth from low-income households through his donations to the nonprofit, Every Kid Sports. Through his partnerships with local businesses, Gatesman donates all of his proceeds to the organization. United Athletic Company T-shirts promote sportsmanship, inclusivity and teamwork, as Gatesman strives to encourage confidence and empowerment for young athletes.

Victoria Rutkowski
A Seneca High School freshman, Rutkowski placed sixth in the world on the Exam for Principles of Marketing at the DECA International Career Development Conference that took place in Anaheim, California, recently. She traveled with seven other qualifying Seneca DECA members, who have studied and practiced business skills including communication, marketing, finance, hospitality, management and entrepreneurship. Rutkowski was among 23,000 high school students to participate in DECA’s industry-influenced and -validated competitive events.

Joanne Schwartz
As Burlington County Clerk, Schwartz is inviting couples to marry during Bordentown Pride and Community Day on June 29, where she will officiate weddings as well as participate in the event’s march. This is the fourth annual pride event, and the second for which Schwartz has officiated. She is an active participant in community events, and became the first woman and the first Jewish county clerk in Burlington County in 2019. Schwartz is dedicated to advocating for her community, especially underrepresented populations. Before her current position, Schwartz taught sociology and criminal justice at Glassboro State College and Burlington County College, served as an EMT for 20 years and the president of the Mt. Laurel Emergency and Hampton Lakes Emergency Squads, and has numerous volunteering experiences.

Karen Cohen
Formerly a pre-K teacher for over 30 years at the Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, Cohen founded a nonprofit organization to provide communities in Madagascar with essentials like clean water, clothes, toiletries and school supplies. The Philawell Foundation, established in March of this year, allows people to support through donations, and Cohen delivers items in person. In just the first few months since the nonprofit’s approval, Philawell has provided two wells and is in the process of building another.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 11.
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