The Justin Veatch Fund will award its fifth annual music scholarships in June to graduating high school seniors planning to study music. This year there will be three $1,000 scholarships and students outside of Yorktown were eligible for the first time. The awards honor the late Justin Veatch, the Yorktown High School senior who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2008. This year one of the scholarships will be given in memory of the late Graham “Gray” Keenan III, a close friend of Justin’s who died last August at the age of 21 in a car accident. “The Fund owes a debt of gratitude to the Keenan family,” says Jeffrey Veatch, Justin’s father, who spoke at Keenan’s funeral. “The Keenan family requested donations honoring Gray go to The Justin Veatch Fund because of their friendship and the work we do helping musically talented teens. Those donations amounted to a significant amount of money,” said Veatch.
Those applying for this year’s Justin Veatch Fund scholarships included students from Yorktown, Hendrick Hudson, Fox Lane, Croton Harmon and Walter Panas High Schools. Last year’s scholarships went to Yorktown’s Kristina Koller who is studying at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, CT. Spencer Cohen, also of Yorktown and who is studying at SUNY New Paltz, received a second place award of $500. This year at least one award will be presented at Yorktown High School’s Senior Awards Night on June 10th. The Fund will also hold a special program for all recipients at The Hart Library in Shrub Oak at 6pm on June 19th. At that event a special community service award will be presented to Helena Rodriguez, the current president and founder of the Yorktown Teen Center. “Helena’s relationship with The Fund has been invaluable in helping us move our programs forward,” says Veatch. “She has contributed so much to our community we did not want to pass up this opportunity to give her special recognition.”
The Justin Veatch Fund is a 501(c)3 organization and a recognized New York charity. In addition to the annual scholarships The Fund creates a variety of programs for talented musical teens including a two-day summer music workshop which this year will be held on August 12th and 13th in Pleasantville, NY. Another major Fund program is an annual fall concert in which local talented young performers open for a headline act. Last year’s headliner was Bernie Williams and his All Star Band at a concert held at the White Plains Performing Arts Center. The Fund also joins the Teen Center as a co-sponsor of the monthly First Fridays open mic nights held from October through May at the Yorktown Community and Cultural Center.
Jeffrey Veatch has also gone on the road with “A Message from Justin”, a 40 minute multi-media program that tells Justin’s story and inspires teens to take better care of themselves and their friends. “In the past year I have been fortunate to speak to more than 10,000 young people from middle to high school age in New York and New Jersey,” says Veatch. Veatch appeared April 2nd at a news conference held by US Senator Chuck Schumer to address the problem of prescription drug abuse by teens. Organizations interested in scheduling “A Message from Justin” should contact Gina Wolfman at The Teen Sage, (203) 270-1398, a Connecticut firm that specializes in motivational speakers dealing with teen issues.