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Posted by Ghani on March 6, 2021
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 On February 18, 2021, with over 50 college students and high school seniors joining in, NBEF hosted a Virtual Panel Discussion Event entitled: “Making the Grade … Building a Network … Landing a Career.” The moderator and panelists consisted of accomplished young professionals and grad/professional school students (all former NBEF scholarship recipients) representing various fields of endeavor including entertainment and sports production, business, education, healthcare, engineering, science, government, and social work.

The panelists provided “real talk” while responding to inquiries covering topics on work/life balance, self-care, alleviating stress, preparing for networking events, community involvement, connecting with mentors, etc. A post-event survey was administered and exemplifies “rave reviews” on the panelists and overall experience … one of which states, “I really enjoyed the event. I learned so much useful information that further prepares me for college and careers. All the panelists did an amazing job!”


Assie Konneh (NBHS Grad) is a Marketing, Production & Project Management Consultant. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Master’s degree in Strategic Communications from Seton Hall University. Her career has entailed working for ESSENCE Communications, Inc. as a Marketing Manager, WNET/Thirteen as an Assistant Production Manager and Senior Production Coordinator, Viacom Media Networks, VH1 as a Production/Development Assistant, and the National Basketball Association as a Broadcast Assistant.  


Aileen Merino (NBHS Grad) is a Constituent Services Representative for the U.S. House of Representatives. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rider University. Her work experience includes serving as a Program Assistant with the Latino Action Network Foundation, Internship Fellow with the New Jersey Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and   Development, District Office Intern for Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Chief of Staff of the Center for Diversity & Inclusion at Rider University.  

Alexander Lopez-Perez (NBHSTHS Grad) is a Fulbright Fellow Scholar in which he taught English and hosted an education driven radio show in Indonesia. He was later elevated to Orientation Committee Lead/Director with the Fulbright Association. Alexander has a degree in English Education and is currently pursuing a Masters in Elementary Education (both from Rutgers University). He served as a Teacher Intern for the New Brunswick Public Schools and is now advancing his career teaching English & Creative Writing at Bound Brook High School in Bound Brook, NJ.

Amara Higgins (NBHS Grad) is the Northeast Region Division Coordinator of LVMH. She is a Montclair State University graduate having obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Finance. Her career has also entailed her having served as a Private Client Coordinator and Trade Marketing & Communications Coordinator for LVMH, Project Assurance Associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Legal Analyst for the International Continental Exchange in New York City.

Ashley Lopez (NBHSTHS Grad) is a Registered Nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Saint Peter’s University Hospital. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Rutgers University-Newark School of Nursing this past May. Prior to earning her degree and nursing license, Ashley worked as a Patient Care Technician at Saint Peter’s and performed a variety of tutoring, teaching and research assistant roles for the Rutgers-Newark campus’ Office of Academic Success, School of Nursing and Equal Opportunity Fund.  

Edson Martinez, MSW, LSW (NBHS Grad) is a Medical Social Worker with the Hoboken University Medical Center. He earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work from Rutgers University. His career also entailed him serving as a Social Worker with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and a Mental Health Clinician with the Hyacinth Foundation. Edson is a former member of NBEF’s Board of Directors and is currently the Senior Account Manager for NBEF’s “AMP Team,” which administers monthly contact with participants in the organization’s College & Young Professional Network.  

Emmanuel Johnson (NBHS Grad) is a Fulbright Fellow Scholar who studied abroad at the University of Birmingham in England obtaining a Master’s degree in Robotics after graduating from North Carolina A&T State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. In addition, he is a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, and will obtain a doctorate in Computer Science at the University of Southern California in May 2021 with a concentration in Artificial Intelligence (“A.I”). Emmanuel’s work has already been published in many of the leading A.I. conferences and journals.  

Juan Manuel Romero (NBHSTHS Grad) is currently excelling in a joint MD/Ph.D. Program at Baylor University in Texas. Upon completing his studies, he will become both a Medical Doctor and Scientist. Juan acquired his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University with a major in Biological Sciences and Associate degree from Middlesex County with a major in Biology. His career development also entailed (during a gap year between college and med school) work in a biotech lab and conducting research in the neurologic complications of AIDS.