Four years after a terrifying car crash took the life of Carmen Rivera-Gotay, local attorney Carol Schlitt presented the fourth annual scholarship given in the teenager’s memory to Huntington High School Class of 2017 member Allyson Arleo.
An incoming senior who would have graduated with Huntington’s Class of 2014, Ms. Rivera-Gotay and Class of 2013 member Ray Vega lost their lives on June 29, 2013 in an early morning accident on Walt Whitman Road in Melville.
The $500 scholarship was presented during the senior academic awards ceremony before a crowd of 300 in the Huntington High School auditorium.
Ms. Arleo will be attending LaSalle University in Philadelphia. She plans to study social work, management and leadership. The energetic young woman was the manager of the Highsteppers dance team that reached the national championships, served in the student government and sang in the school choir. She completed a credit bearing internship with high school business teacher Paige Tyree.
“I remember the night of the awards when this scholarship was being announced and I was sitting there crossing my fingers hoping they would say my name because the meaning behind this award means so much more to me than anyone could think,” Ms. Arleo said. “The awesome part about winning the Carmen Rivera-Gotay scholarship is that when reading what she was like in high school, it felt as if I was reading a bio about myself. Carmen was a Natural Helper, had a big heart and an amazing open personality and I believe those are characteristics that I also have as well. Having school spirit was one of my biggest things in high school and it was such an honor to win a scholarship in memory of someone who believed the same things I do.”
Ms. Arleo was a very recognizable figure around the high school. Always smiling, she brightened the day of her classmates and teachers. The teenager had a hand in dozens of initiatives around the building and in the community, including at Tri-CYA.
“I cannot thank the Gotays enough for this scholarship,” Ms. Arleo said. “It’s a really good feeling winning something so amazing in honor of someone who really made a mark because of what I’ve done with my time in high school. Thank you again to the Gotays for the opportunity to apply for this scholarship and for giving me the chance to honor someone so stunning inside and out.”
Carmen Melissa Rivera-Gotay was born on December 11, 1995 in Bay Shore. She was popular around Huntington High School. Interested in art and music, the teenager set high goals for herself. She was working hard in school and had taken a job as a bookkeeper at King Kullen on New York Avenue to save money for college. She was thinking about pursuing a career as a psychologist.
Ms. Rivera-Gotay once offered advice that summarizes the essence of the scholarship presented in her honor: “Try. Take chances. Make mistakes. Life can be messy and confusing at times, but it’s always full of surprises. The next rock in your path might be a stepping stone.”
“We want to create a stepping stone in Carmen’s honor,” said Carolyn Gotay, Carmen’s mother, during the first scholarship presentation in 2014. “We want to create something tangible to remember Carmen and all the goodness she brought into our lives. Therefore, we have created this scholarship. We did so to keep her memory alive, to remember the friendship, the joy and warmth that she brought to so many. This scholarship honors Carmen’s memory by recognizing a student who shines because of the fullness of her heart, brightness of personality and willingness to give of herself.”
To be eligible for the award a student must:
• Demonstrate community involvement through activities in school or in the community.
• Have been a positive force in school through his/her caring and respectful interaction with his/her fellow students.
• Have been accepted to a two or four year college or university, trade or vocational school.
• Be on track to graduate at the conclusion of the school year.
Carmen Rivera-Gotay Scholarship Recipients
- 2017 Allyson Arleo
- 2016 Yardalie Daniel
- 2015 Jessica Tucker
- 2014 Erin Plante