NEWARK, N.J. — Two students who have overcome immigration and adversity to succeed in their education ended the school year by accepting the Province’s Francis Medals, presented to people who have displayed an extraordinary contribution to the advancement of the values and ideals of St. Francis.
Robert Sandoz, OFM, president of Christ the King Preparatory School, bestowed HNP Francis Medals on students Denise Cooper and Kevaughn Francis on June 8.
Denise was born in Liberia, a West African country ravaged by successive civil wars and social upheaval. The Cooper family was forced to leave its village and found respite in a refugee camp where they lived for more than two years. Denise had no formal education and suffered deprivation until she got to the United States and arrived in Newark. More than two years behind in her formal education, she enrolled at Christ the King Preparatory School and has since distinguished herself for her eagerness to achieve at grade level.
In giving out the medals, Robert said, “In the peace prayer, attributed to St. Francis, we acknowledge that it is in giving that we receive. This sentiment has taken hold in the heart of this young woman and animates all that she does. She never thinks about what she might want, rather her focus is on what she has to give. It is for this reason that we present Denise Cooper with the Francis Medal.”
Kevaughn, born to Jamaican parents living in England, came to the United States in 2002 and settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a young child, Kevaughn was accepted into the Talented and Gifted Young Scholars School in East Harlem in Manhattan.
When the family relocated to New Jersey, his mother enrolled him in Christ the King. According to Robert, several things distinguish Kevaughn from his peers. “First, he has a keen sense of paying it forward. When he arrived at Christ the King, the school was only beginning its third year of existence. Kevaughn jumped in and constantly volunteered for the multitude of tasks that needed doing. He also represented the school in its Nicaraguan Mission trip.
“He most clearly embodies the tenets of the ‘Graduate at Graduation’ open to growth, faith-filled, intellectually competent, loving, committed to justice and successful in the workplace,” said Robert, who has been president of the school since 2009.
The Province’s Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM,
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. This photo, provided by Lisa Papciak, shows Gregory Gebbia, OFM, Denise Cooper, Sr. Nancy Grassia, OSF, Kevaughn Francis, and Robert Sandoz, OFM.