Aspiring Teacher Following in the Footsteps of Scholarship’s Namesake
From left, Joe Casarella '55, Stephanie Anderer '13, Dr. Sharon Sherman, and Meaghan Crawford O'Gara.
Growing up on Long Island in the town of Nesconset, Stephanie Anderer ’13 knew by the time she finished third grade that she would, one day, like to become an elementary school teacher.
Years earlier, and more than 100 miles away, Helen Casarella was already teaching third-graders at Lawrence Township Elementary School, not far from Rider University, where her husband, Joe Casarella ’55, had earned his bachelor’s degree.
The paths of Anderer and the Casarella family recently converged when the Elementary Education/Psychology dual major became the first recipient of the Helen A. Casarella Scholarship, established by Joe in honor of his wife, who passed away in August 2011.
Though she was actually a graduate of The College of New Jersey, Helen was a fixture on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, where Joe remains active in a litany of alumni events. She was widely regarded to be as much a part of the University community as any Rider graduate, a fact Joe considered in his choice.
“I began to think about funding this scholarship last year, as I wanted to find a way to perpetuate her memory,” said Joe, a resident of Washington Crossing, Pa. “Helen came to everything with me her, from basketball games to reunions, so Rider seemed like the right place to do it.”
The Helen A. Casarella Scholarship is a current-use restricted scholarship, established to award annual aid to a full-time undergraduate student enrolled within the School of Education. Preferably, the student carries a minimum GPA of 3.0 and exhibits a proven financial need, according to Meaghan Crawford O'Gara, assistant director of Scholarships and Stewardship at Rider. Anderer’s selection was approved, enthusiastically, by Dr. Sharon Sherman, dean of Rider’s School of Education, which is celebrating its 100th anniverary in 2013.
The scholarship’s initial recipient, Anderer was an all-state swimmer at Smithtown (N.Y.) High School East and competes in the freestyle sprint for Rider’s swimming and diving team. She was inspired to pursue a career in the classroom by her own third-grade teacher who, she says, inspired her.
“You have that one teacher who stands out to you,” recalled Anderer, who exchanged letters with her teacher for a few years after third grade before their correspondence faded. Ironically, they met by chance in a Costco the day before Anderer left for Rider. There, Anderer revealed her plans to her childhood instructor.
“I told her I was going to Rider as an Education major, and that she inspired me to become a teacher,” recalled Anderer, who will student teach in the fall at Maurice Hawk Elementary School in West Windsor, N.J.
Current use restricted scholarships, along with endowed scholarships, may be customized to support a specific academic area, or can remain open to all majors.