In keeping with their commitment to inspire, educate, and motivate youth and students in our state, the New Jersey Hall of Fame (NJHOF) and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) announce the winners of the annual student Essay Contest, as well as the Areté Scholarship Fund.

Mackenzie Booker and Yana Janevska won the 2023 essay contest titled Who Belongs in the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

In the middle school category, Mackenzie Booker, a fifth grader at Charles Harker Elementary School in Swedesboro, New Jersey, won for her essay on First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, who was born in Hammonton, New Jersey. Mackenzie’s essay focused on Dr. Biden’s efforts to advocate for all Americans and work to increase educational opportunities as an educator herself.

Yana Janevska, a tenth grader at Bergen County Academies in Elmwood Park, was selected in the high school category for her essay on suffragist and journalist Alice Stone Blackwell, who was born in Orange, New Jersey. Yana’s essay described Alice Stone Blackwell’s tireless efforts to further women’s rights and equality.

“NJEA is proud to partner with the New Jersey Hall of Fame to recognize the achievements of these students,” said New Jersey Education Association President Sean M. Spiller, who is also a high school science teacher in the Wayne public school system. “Our partnership has contributed to the successful educational journeys many students have since taken because of the Areté Scholarship Fund program. The scholarship program inspires our students and affords them the opportunity to see that with hard work, determination, and opportunity, the fulfillment of dreams is possible.”

The essay contest is open to all New Jersey students from 4th-12th grades and divided into two age categories: intermediate (grades 4-8) and high school (grades 9-12). Applicants need to write an essay of no more than 500 words describing who should be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. The winning students’ nominations will be forwarded to the New Jersey Hall of Fame Academy for consideration for induction into the 2024 class.

The Hall of Fame also announced Max Druckman and Keely Balfour as the winners of the 2023 Areté Scholarship Fund, a $5,000 award granted to two graduating high school seniors each year.

“We are proud to recognize this year’s recipients of the Areté Scholarship and the NJEA Essay Contest, which are vital components of the Hall of Fame’s mission,” said Jon F. Hanson, Chairman of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. “On behalf of our board of trustees and many supporters throughout New Jersey, we applaud these students.”

Max is graduating from Freehold Township High School in Freehold, New Jersey. He plans to attend Tufts University and major in International Relations. Max’s interest in international relations comes from his passion in geography from an early age, winning a middle school geography bee twice, and love of traveling. Max hopes to achieve his Areté through connecting and unifying people through understanding their similarities over their differences.

Keely is graduating from Montclair High School in Montclair, New Jersey. She is set to attend Yale University in the fall. She plans to major in History (Global Track) and hopes to attend law school to fulfill her dream of becoming an environmental, civil rights or immigration lawyer. Keely’s resilience and relentless determination to overcome any obstacles that have stood in her way have exemplified her Areté.

The scholarship is named after the ancient Greek concept of Areté of actualizing one’s highest sense of self with a moral excellence of character regardless of the circumstances or the adversities one is likely to face on the path to greatness. The recipients of the scholarship must demonstrate qualities such as academic engagement, moral character, a commitment to their community, and a sense of Jersey pride.

The winners of the Essay Contest and the Areté Scholarship Fund will be honored at the NJHOF’s induction ceremony later this year.

For more information on the Essay Contest, visit:

For more information on the Areté Scholarship Fund, visit:

ABOUT THE NJHOF: Because everyone needs a hero, the New Jersey Hall of Fame (NJHOF) honors citizens who have made invaluable contributions to society, the State of New Jersey, and the world beyond. Since 2008, the NJHOF has hosted 14 ceremonies for more than 200 notable individuals and groups in recognition of their induction into the Hall of Fame. The NJHOF endeavors to present school children with significant and impactful role models to show that they can, and should, strive for excellence. The NJHOF is thankful for the support of its many sponsors, including Hackensack Meridian Health, without which none of our endeavors would be possible. For more information, go to



Alex Neely,, (609) 789 – 3443