Elsa Colaj was nominated by her colleague, Angelo Marocco, and her friend, Vince di Mura. The following profile contains text from each nomination.
Ms. Colaj is a living story of generosity and success. When she was 12 years old, she came to the United States from Central America as a migrant. She found her way alone until some extended family members could join her. She worked full time and spent a number of years earning a college degree in criminal justice from Jersey City University. Then, Ms. Colaj embarked on a Master's program at JCU, where she has maintained the highest grade point average. She's currently employed as a teaching assistant and class monitor in the Plainfield Public School District, where she helps teachers work with Spanish-speaking and migrant children.
Ms. Colaj speaks three (3) different languages fluently, so she can communicate with all students and their families. As an advocate, Ms. Colaj has helped many low-income students obtain technology during one of the most challenging times in history. Ms. Colaj helped deliver iPads during the height of the pandemic without any hesitation.
During the pandemic, Ms. Colaj was called on to teach classes in Spanish when the teacher turnover rates were high. Although she could have declined, she never turned down an assignment, so she stepped in without hesitation. Many of her students openly stated they would have loved for her to become their full-time teacher because of how effective she was as an educator and person.
"Ms. Colaj is one of the most amazing individuals this world has to offer. For 5+ years, I have witnessed Ms. Colaj positively impact and change the lives of many youngsters. Ms. Colaj is one of the most humble, hardworking, and kind humans I have ever met. She has given up so much of her time, money, and resources to help our young students succeed. There's no doubt that the impact she has and continues to make on the lives of so many is second to none," said Marocco.
"Elsa is a good and conscientious young woman who works hard to become everything we think of when we think of an individual who makes good. In doing so, she makes her community a better place," said di Mura