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Potanka, Frank M. Scholarship

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This scholarship was established in 2012 by Frank Potanka’s family. Frank’s daughter Kristen is a 2010 graduate of Ramapo College. When they created the award, the Potanka family wrote, “Frank M. Potanka was a loving father, husband, and firefighter. He was a brave and courageous family man who worked hard at United Parcel Service for over 25 years to provide for his family. Frank not only loved helping his family but helping the community as well. In addition to work, he was committed to the Wanaque Fire Department as past Assistant Chief, Treasurer of the Exempt and Relief Association and Life Member in the New Jersey State Fireman’s Association.

In 1992 Frank was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With two children under the age of seven he knew he needed to fight to make it through this battle. He went through six months of chemotherapy, and in 1993 a bone marrow transplant. Frank was said to be cancer-free for the next 17 years.

In 2008 the doctors found that the cancer had returned in a rare form called MDS as well as the Hodgkin lymphoma. During this time Kristen was a junior at Ramapo College. Frank began to undergo more high dose chemotherapy treatments. The doctors told Frank he would need another bone marrow transplant. No one in his family was a match for the transplant. A year long search for another donor began. Kristen hosted a bone marrow drive at Ramapo College to help find a match for her dad as well as others who were in need of a match.

Shortly after, Frank had found a donor and was able to have his second bone marrow transplant. During this time, Frank was unable to work his full time job at UPS and financial issues arose with Kristen attending Ramapo College. Frank and his family worked with Ramapo and were able to have Kristen still attend Ramapo College. After the transplant, the doctors found the cancer had spread even further. Frank’s cancer spread to his back, blood and brain.

On January 11, 2011 Frank passed away after fighting five types of cancer over the course of 19 years. His fighting willpower kept him motivated to push through all of the hard times.

“ ‘People are always asking me how it is that firefighters run into a burning building when everyone else is running out. Courage is the answer.’ (Captain Mike Kennedy in the movie, Ladder 49)

Courage was Frank M. Potanka.”


  • For students with a parent battling cancer
  • Financial need as determined by Foundation policy
  • Applicants must submit an essay describing their parent’s illness and why they feel their parent is courageous
  • Reviewed by a committee of staff, faculty and members of the Potanka family.

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2020 Recipient

Xaymaraliz Dumeng

Xaymaraliz Dumeng of Belleville, N.J. is an Environmental Studies major. She has a 3.9 GPA and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Honors Program.

All of her activities both on and off-campus illustrate her dedication to the environment. At Ramapo, Xaymaraliz has been active in 1STEP where she does trash clean-ups and raises environmental awareness. She has volunteered at MEVO, a local sustainable farm, and is a Sales Ambassador at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics.  She recently completed an internship at the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute, doing research in composting. “I plan to be an environmental advocate to help businesses and communities become more sustainable.

2019 Recipients

Nicole Cebulko

Nicole Cebulko of Oceanport, N.J. is a Nursing major. She is a transfer student from University of Rhode Island where she earned a 4.0 GPA and was on Dean’s List each semester. She plans to get her Masters in Neonatal Nursing.

She has quickly gotten involved at Ramapo, and been a part of Leaders in Service, RASA Student Ambassadors and 4GottenSuitcase, the A Cappella group. Off campus, she volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and MEVO as well as South County Hospital last spring. In her free time she loves yoga and hiking at nearby Ramapo Reservation.

“In my remaining time at Ramapo, I hope to become more of a leader on campus and make small impacts on people’s lives every day with random acts of kindness.”

Nicole Valenzuela

Nicole Valenzuela of Elmwood Park, N.J. is a student in the Nursing program, and previously earned a BS degree in Biology from Ramapo. She has a 3.4 GPA.

Nicole volunteers at the Elmwood Park Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and has worked with Life Opportunities Unlimited as a direct care counselor with geriatric developmentally-disabled clients. After graduation, she plans to use her accumulated knowledge to pursue her dream as an oncology nurse.

“I will be forever grateful for this scholarship, as it is helping me get one step closer to my dream.”

2018 Recipients

Julian Giglio

“I plan to shine inside the pool and out,” says junior Julian Giglio, who dedicates 20+ hours per week competing in freestyle and butterfly events for the Ramapo College Men’s Swim Team.

Along with his fraternity brothers in Alpha Sigma Phi, Julian created EPICGOOD, a non-profit dedicated to spreading positivity and doing good within the community.  “My goal post-graduation is pretty simple: to live a happy life with a steady income.”

Julian is from Ocean Gate, N.J., and is majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. He has a 3.0 GPA.

Brianna Burkert

Brianna Burkert of Bridgewater, N.J. is a Communication Arts major with a concentration in Global Communication and Media. She is also pursuing the Business Essentials Certificate. She has a 3.71 GPA and has been on the dean’s list every semester since freshman year. Brianna is part of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Arts Honors Society.

At Ramapo, Brianna has been active in several organizations including the community service fraternity, and Alpha Phi Omega, where she has served as the Public Relations Officer.

2017 Recipient

Angela Edson

Angela Edson of Union City, NJ is a student in the MSW program at Ramapo College. She graduated from Ramapo College in 2015 with a degree in Sociology. She is an active member of the MSW Association.

Angela participates in an adult recreational kickball league on the weekends, and is the Office Manager at The Life Raft Group, a non-profit organization providing research, education, and advocacy for a rare cancer called GIST.

2015 Recipient

Kimberly Simunovich

Kimberly Simunovich of Forked River, N.J. is a mathematics major in the teacher education program. She has a 3.823 grade point average and has received Dean’s List since coming to Ramapo. She is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Golden Key International Honor Society.

At Ramapo, Kimberly has been active in several organizations and activities, including the peer facilitation program and Relay for Life. She is also the Peer Facilitation Intern and Treasurer of the Math Club.

Kimberly has also been involved in off-campus activities and organizations, including tutoring high school students.

2014 Recipients

Colleen Jones

Colleen Jones of Cranford, N.J. is a nursing major. She has a 3.504 grade point average.

At Ramapo, Colleen has been active in several organizations and activities, including the Nursing Student Organization and Relay for Life. She also is an active member of Sigma Delta Tau where she served as the Vice President of Scholarship for the 2014-2015 terms.

Colleen has also been involved in off –campus activities, including teaching special needs children how to swim at Children’s Specialized Hospital, volunteering with the Girl Scouts of Washington Rock Council and teaching handicapped individuals how to fish with the Newark Bait and Fly Casting Club.

Nicole Evangelista

Nicole Evangelista of Manalapan, NJ is a Nursing major. She is vice president of Academics for Alpha Omicron Pi Women’s Sorority. Nicole was inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta and Gold Key Honor Societies and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She participates in Relay for Life, coordinates events for her sorority to raise money for Juvenile Arthritis and has donated ten inches of hair as part of the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program. When Nicole returned home for winter break in 2012, she learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. When she completed chemotherapy treatment, another mass was discovered. “I am so proud of my Mom for not only going through such a difficult situation but handling it with such grace, dignity, strength and courage. She will always be a hero in my eyes and I am thankful to have her in my life,” she said. Nicole has a 3.54 grade point average.

2013 Recipient

Alexandra Castiglia

Alexandra Castiglia of Oak Ridge, NJ is a Psychology major and a Criminology minor. She is a member of and serves on the Executive Board of Alpha Phi Omega, the professional community service fraternity, Ramapo Admissions Student Ambassadors, United Asian Association and the Bischoff Hall Residence Hall Council. For more than 12 years, she has been involved with service activities with the Rotary Club. On campus, she has performed community service with the Kessler Foundation, Relay for Life and March of Dimes. Alexandra views her dyslexia as an ability, not a disability. “Having dyslexia has afforded me many opportunities I might not have had the chance to experience otherwise,” she said. Alexandra enjoys community service. “As long as I can make a small difference in one person’s life, then I’ve done my job,” she added. Alexandra has 3.30 grade point average.

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