Ilene Messina (left) and Ellen Mollineaux (third from right) with the four 2018 bELIeve Project scholarship recipients

bELIeve Project Scholarships Presented

Ilene Messina (left) and Ellen Mollineaux (third from right) with the four 2018 bELIeve Project scholarship recipients

July 23, 2018

Eli Mollineaux will always be remembered around the Huntington community for the inspirational young man that he was. The teenager passed away in October 2016 after a lifelong battle against Pearson’s Syndrome, a rare disease triggered by a mutation in the mitochondrial DNA. He was just 15 years old.

In the aftermath of his loss, Mr. Mollineaux’s family and Ilene Messina, a teacher aide in the district who worked with him for many years created the bELIeve Project, which sponsors an annual scholarship presented to multiple Huntington seniors.

This year’s bELIeve Project: Eli Mollineaux Memorial Scholarships were presented to Luke Eidle, Alex LaBella, Rachel Moss and Jamie Spector. The $500 awards were formally presented to the four special teenagers at Huntington High School’s senior academic awards ceremony last month before a crowd of 300.

“They say people come into our lives for a reason,” Mrs. Messina said. “That was certainly true about Eli Mollineaux. Eli was an inspiration to everyone he met. He was kind, compassionate, always smiling and lived every moment of his life to the fullest. Whether he was telling a joke, sharing his passion for art, giving a hug or high-fiving his friends, Eli spent his time bringing joy to everyone who knew him.”

The day before the awards night ceremony, Mr. Eidle led the dedication of a gorgeous school courtyard memorial in Mr. Mollineaux’s honor. Mr. Eidle’s project, complete with stone benches, masonry and beautiful plantings was so impressive it earned him the rank of Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America. The memorial includes a stunning bronze plaque emblazoned with the quote: “A life that touches others goes on forever.”

“On a beautiful September afternoon in 2016, Eli scored a touchdown from his wheelchair as the Huntington varsity football team played at home against Smithtown West,” Mrs. Messina said. Bringing Eli down the field was Alex LaBella. Alex was the logical choice to be with Eli. After all, they had been good friends for many years and Alex was always so kind, caring and protective of Eli. To see the two of them moving down the field was incredibly heartwarming.”

Ms. Spector is another outstanding member of Huntington’s Class of 2018. She lost her father, Huntington School Board member Adam Spector to cancer while attending high school. “I have never seen Jamie without a smile on her face,” Mrs. Messina said. “For the past two years, she has chaired Relay For Life. As Huntington science teacher Joe Cohen told me: ‘Jamie is the backbone of Relay! She absolutely throws her heart and soul into everything she does.”

Ms. Moss is an equally splendid young woman. “Rachel befriended Eli in high school, spending time with him in art class and also while volunteering at the Woodhull summer program.”

Mr. LaBella is headed to Hobart College where he plans to play on the football team and study criminal justice. Mr. Eidle will be attending Rutgers University where he intends to study aerospace engineering. Ms. Moss plans to major in biology at Cornell University and later attend medical school. Ms. Spector is headed to Northeastern University in Boston where she plans to study for a career in nursing.

“We are honoring exceptional Huntington High School seniors who live their lives like Eli, bringing kindness, joy and compassion to others every single day,” Mrs. Messina said.

As the four seniors assembled together with Mrs. Messina and Mrs. Mollineaux for a commemorative photo on the auditorium stage, the crowd applauded in an emotional tribute to the scholarship recipients as well as to the memory of Eli Mollineaux.

Eli Mollineaux Memorial Scholarship Recipients

2017 Allyson Arleo, Charles Ehrman, Nicholas Lanzisero
2018 Luke Eidle, Alex LaBella, Rachel Moss, Jamie Spector
Huntington's Eli Mollineaux will always be remembered
Huntington's Eli Mollineaux will always be remembered
Students near a sign emblazoned with Eli Mollineaux's motto. (Mike Connell photo.)
Students near a sign emblazoned with Eli Mollineaux's motto. (Mike Connell photo.)