Six years after a violent car crash took the life of Carmen Rivera-Gotay, a scholarship in the teenager’s memory was presented to Huntington High School Class of 2019 member Casey Smith.
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 by high school dean Paul Caleca during the senior academic awards ceremony before a crowd of 325 in the Huntington High School auditorium.
Ms. Smith is headed to Villanova University in Philadelphia where she is interested in studying either psychology or cognitive science.
A member of the high school’s National Honor Society, English Honor Society, Math Honor Society, French Honor Society and Social Studies Honor Society chapters, Ms. Smith was a senior captain of the Huntington Highsteppers competitive dance team. She helped plan this past spring’s Relay For Life and was a member of the women’s empowerment club and Interact Club and the teenager volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
During her high school years, Ms. Smith took advantage of opportunities to travel to Italy, France, Spain, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and California.
Carmen Melissa Rivera-Gotay
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.