Never one to savor the limelight, Jess Peslak wasn’t quite sure how to handle a night in which she would receive the highest honor the Men of Essex can bestow.
The 55-year-old organization tabbed Peslak, Livingston High’s senior pitcher and an outstanding student, with the Essex Award, the symbolic of being the Essex County High School Scholar Athlete of the Year for 2013. Only one award of this kind is presented annually by the renowned organization, established by a prominent group of African-Americans to honor Essex County Scholar Athletes of all race, creed or national origin.
While Peslak knew she would be receiving the prestigious award, she wasn’t quite prepared to see her name splashed on the front cover of the program, or that she’d be sitting on the dais, along with her mother, Jean, dad, Ed, and head coach Jason Daily.
When she was shown the cover, she said “is (my name printed) on every cover, or just that one program,” she asked. When told that the cover was the same throughout the ball room, she nearly fainted.
Nevertheless, the Hofstra-bound senior watched as numerous Essex County student-athletes, indeed the best of the best, stepped up one by one to receive their awards and have their accomplishments bestowed to the large crowd at the Marriott Newark Airport Hotel. There were students who will be attending Yale, Princeton, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Melon, the University of Colorado and Rutgers, to name a few.
There were also some outstanding juniors, including Peslak’s teammate, Kylie McLaughlin, who was named the county’s outstanding athlete for softball.
When it was finally her turn to be recognized, the crowed stood and applauded while Peslak’s parents watched with pride.
Her speech was short, but to the point. She thanked her parents, coaches and friends for their support. Ed Peslak gave an emotional speech of the games he’s watched his daughter pitch, as well as seeing her evolve into a quality young adult. Daily also noted Jess’ contributions as an athlete, but more importantly, a student, at Livingston High.
And while there’s still plenty to accomplish this season on the softball diamond, this night was about family and being recognized for her work in the classroom and the softball field.
Great job, Jess.