Local high school students are invited to participate in the annual YMCA Dr. King essay contest.

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is pleased to announce that the annual essay contest held in conjunction with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial breakfast in January has been expanded to all students in Monmouth County.

Wayne Boatwright will be the keynote speaker at the Y’s Dr. King breakfast on Jan. 17.

All area high school students are invited to participate in the MLK essay contest by submitting a 300- to 500- word essay to the Y by 5 p.m., Dec. 16. Information about the essay theme and the entry application are available at

Two essays will be selected as grand prize winners and the winning students will present their essays at the breakfast, which will take place on Friday, January 17, 2020, 7:30-9:30 a.m., at the Sheraton in Eatontown.

Both winners will receive a $1,000 education scholarship, generously sponsored by Hackensack Meridian Health and New Jersey Natural Gas, and a one-year youth membership to a YMCA of Greater Monmouth County branch of their choice.

“The purpose of this community gathering is to share the teachings of Dr. King with people of all ages, particularly our young people, who are tomorrow’s leaders and change makers,” said Michael A. Wright, a member of the Y Board of Directors and chairman of the MLK Advisory Committee, a group of community leaders helping to plan the countywide celebration.

Wright noted that plans are well under way for the event with a strong focus on engaging more youth. In addition to expanding the essay contest, the Y also is working with area school districts to request that students who’d like to attend the event will receive an approved absence from school.

For the first time in its 31-year history, the annual Y event is scheduled before the national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to kick off a weekend of community activities in Monmouth County that celebrate the civil rights leader.

“The Y is honored to bring people together from all corners of our community to remember and reflect on Dr. King’s vision of a world of peace, love and understanding, and to take action to make our communities stronger,” said Laurie Goganzer, president and chief executive officer of the newly merged YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, based in Shrewsbury.

Presenting the keynote address for the event will be Wayne Boatwright, vice president of Diversity & Inclusion at Hackensack Meridian Health. For over 20 years, Boatwright has worked side-by-side with senior-level leaders to build inclusive and diverse work environments that strengthen organizations. Boatwright is highly regarded for his work in diversity and inclusion and is often called upon for speaking engagements and media interviews. He was recently featured in NJBIZ on the importance of creating environments that embrace differences beyond race and gender.

Boatwright also has a strong commitment to strengthening communities through his volunteer efforts. He currently serves on the boards of the Institute for Diversity in Health Management, United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and Fulfill. He is a long-time supporter of the Y’s mission to build healthy spirit, mind and body for all, and has served on the Y board in 2010-12 and led the Y Achievers Advisory Committee, which oversees a college-readiness program for at-risk teens. He has also been active in the planning of the Y’s MLK breakfast and has twice served as emcee.

As leader of the newly merged YMCA, Goganzer said she is grateful for members of the MLK Advisory Committee for “coming together in the spirit of being stronger together to plan an exceptional commemoration that inspires all to make a positive impact in our community.”

In addition to Wright, members of the Advisory Committee are:

• Wayne Boatwright, Hackensack Meridian Health
• Chris Curcia, Investors Bank
• Tom Hayes, New Jersey Natural Gas
• Darryl Hughes, Hackensack Meridian Health
• Rabbi Marc Kline, Monmouth Reform Temple
• Gwendolyn Love, Lunch Break
• Craig McGraw, Trans American Trucking & Warehouse
• Cheryl Morrison, New Jersey Natural Gas
• Pastor Jessica Naulty, United Methodist Church of Red Bank
• Samara O’Neill, Porter Plus Realty
• Gilda Rogers, T. Thomas Fortune Foundation
• Reverend Ronald Sparks, Bethel AME Freehold

Event tickets are $30 for adults, $10 for youth (16 & under) and $250 for a table of 10. For tickets or more information on the breakfast or essay contest, please contact Event Manager Sandy Riddle at 732.671.5505, ext. 119 or e-mail

About YMCA of Greater Monmouth County
YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is here for all – to empower youth and teens, improve health and strengthen community. A leading nonprofit charity, the Y unites 36,000 people of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. In 2018, we provided $925,000 in financial assistance to strengthen approximately 3,000 families in need. The Community YMCA and YMCA of Western Monmouth County formed the countywide Y on Sept. 1, 2019. Our life-changing programs and services are anchored in 10 communities: health and wellness facilities in Freehold Township, Old Bridge and Red Bank; outdoor day camps in Millstone and Wall; a community center in Freehold Borough; counseling and social service centers in Eatontown, Matawan and Middletown; child care centers in Freehold Township, Matawan and Red Bank; and integrated in nearly 100 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. We’re based in Shrewsbury, NJ. Learn more at