The 2022 Utzinger Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship

Founded as the Hackensack Riverkeeper Environmental Scholarship in 2001, the $1000 award was renamed in 2003 to honor the late Ronald Vellekamp, a founding trustee of our organization. From then through 2020, the Ron Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship made awards totaling $17,000.

Mr. Vellekamp was a Tenafly, NJ resident who taught science at Ridgefield Jr./Sr. High School. He was also a part-time ranger at Palisades Interstate Park, Boy Scout leader and Tenafly Nature Center volunteer.

In 2019 the program was again renamed to honor the other founding trustee who passed while actively serving on our board: Margaret Utzinger. Ms. Utzinger spent much her life working to protect the Hackensack River, first with the Hackensack River Coalition, then with Mr. Vellekamp and Captain Bill Sheehan, helping to found – and oversee – Hackensack Riverkeeper.

How it works

Every January, Hackensack Riverkeeper contacts the guidance departments of all sixty-six high schools located within the Hackensack River Watershed (parts of Rockland, Bergen and Hudson Counties; public, private and parochial). In addition, a press release is sent to 120+ regional media outlets.

All students living and/or attending school within the 210-square mile watershed are eligible to apply. Each school may nominate one student each year via a streamlined application process. All applicants must:

  • Have been accepted by an accredited institution of higher learning for the following fall semester,
  • Plan to major or minor in one of the natural sciences or other appropriate subject(s) (STEM, law, planning, etc.), and,
  • Demonstrate a strong personal commitment to the environment.

This application requires the following four attachments to be considered:

  1. A 150-word essay (written by the nominee) discussing the reasons why he / she should receive this Scholarship.
  2. An official copy of the student’s current high school transcript.
  3. A copy of the Letter of Acceptance from the college or university the nominee will be attending.
  4. A description of the student’s extracurricular activities regarding environmental / conservation issues.

Selecting the winner

Nominations must be postmarked no later than Earth Day, April 22, 2022. A review committee led by Program Director Captain Hugh Carola will review all applications and contact the winner no later than June 1, 2022. If possible, the award will be presented publicly at the high school’s annual awards ceremony.

2022 Utzinger Vellekamp Scholarship Criteria Download

Hackensack River Watershed Municipalities



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