Following the tragic death of their friend and classmate, a group of Southwestern Central School graduates set out to honor one of their own.
On January 23, 2017, Justin Romaniuk was traveling southbound on Route 60 when his car veered into the other lane and struck oncoming traffic in the Town of Charlotte.
A 2015 Southwestern Central School graduate, Justin attended Jamestown Community College for one year before transferring to the University at Buffalo. At the time of his passing, he was just starting the second semester of his sophomore year and had plans to become a math teacher.
“It was just so unexpected,” said longtime friend Pat Mogenhan. “We were all 19 (years old) and wanted to do something.”
Pat, with the help of several other friends, set up a GoFundMe page to help Justin’s family with funeral expenses. The fundraiser exceeded its goal and led the group toward creating a scholarship fund that would keep his memory alive, forever.
“He was so active in the community,” Patsaid. “While in high school he was a member of the National Honor Society, he was on the soccer team. I don’t know anyone who could say a bad word about him.”
Using the hashtag, #LiveLikeJ on social media, the group who had just crowdfunded their friend’s funeral, raised enough money to award a scholarship in his memory.
During the high school’s annual award ceremony, the school presented The Justin L. Romaniuk Memorial Scholarship to Jordyn Romaniuk and Carolyn Ruby, Justin’s sister and cousin.
“This was kind of our way to honor Justin’s memory that first year,” Pat explained. “Then we started really working on a way for this thing to be sustainable and represent all of his good qualities.”
The next year, the group worked with a panel of teachers at Southwestern Central School to select a student based on the criteria they had put together. Now, they have partnered with the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to ensure Justin’s memory is preserved forever.
“A lot of us were fortunate to receive scholarships from the Community Foundation while we were in school and remembered that some of the larger scholarships awarded through our high school came from the Foundation,” Pat explained. “We have a long term outlook in how we want his scholarship to be awarded and we need the Community Foundation to really get this thing rolling.”
The Justin L. Romaniuk Scholarship will be awarded annually to graduating Southwestern Central School senior athletes, attending a State University of New York School who are a good student, positive influence on his peers and puts others ahead of themselves. Preference will be given to members of the soccer team.