RED BANK: RIYADH’NA’S SPIRT LIVES ON

Lynese Rawlins, left, and Candace Smith celebrate their selection as winners of scholarships in memory of their late classmate, Riyadh’na Farrow as RBR Principal Risa Clay looks on. (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

Her classmates vow: Riyadh’na Farrow will live on through us.

Family, friends, neighbors and classmates of Riyadh’na, the Red Bank Regional senior who died suddenly at age 18 last September, gathered Saturday at Red Bank’s Count Basie Field to both remember her and honor her memory by helping her classmates move ahead in life.

Riyadh’na was recalled as beautiful, soul- focused and yet quick to laugh.

“Though she’s not here physically, every time someone laughs or smiles, its as if she were still here,” said her friend, Candace Smith.

Smith and Lynese Rawlins, classmates of Riyadh’na, each received a $1,000 scholarship in her honor.

“Her name will live on,” Rawlins said. “All of us are living through her.”

After Riyadh’na’s passing, the Source Foundation, RBR’s school-based youth services program, partnered with the Red Bank community organization Count the Children to form a scholarship committee, which raised the money in her memory. Tickets to Saturday’s event, and a raffle, began raising funds for next year’s scholarships.

The funds were raised through website donations, said RBR principal Risa Clay. “Many kids are still hurting, they still want to do something to help,” she said.

Organizer Celestine Stone called Riyadh’na a God-sent child. “She’s bringing all ¬†different people from different walks of life together,” said Stone. “Her passing made all of us bridge a gap.”

It has been a rough year for the Class of 2013. Another RBR senior, Albert Martin, also died suddenly, last December.

“It’s been devastating,” said Source director Suzanne Keller, “but very positive and heart-warming to watch the community come together.”

Saturday’s program featured a song performed by scholarship committee member Nicole Paventi and remembrances by Clay and friends of Riyadh’na. The event was co-sponsored by the borough’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Sharai Stevenson, sister to Riyadh’na, invited everyone to a birthday party for her at Hance Park on Cherry Street in Tinton Falls on June 19 at 6 p.m.