Stanley Fils, an MBA student who also received his undergrad degree from Montclair State, was honored with the $5,000 Promise Prize during a May 4 ceremony.
The Marie Nesbitt Promise Prize is awarded annually by the Change Create Transform Foundation, which recognizes and rewards academic excellence and encourages leadership, scholarship, service and philanthropy. The prize was established in 2002 by the foundation’s founder Vikki Pryor, in memory of her grandmother Marie Nesbitt, who was a great-granddaughter of slaves who held jobs ranging from domestic worker to welder.
The Promise Prize is awarded to a black entrepreneurship or business student with the following traits: academic excellence (high GPA), leadership, scholarship, initiative, service and entrepreneurship. The winners, who are called Scholars, become part of a community that networks together and holds an annual summit.
“For me, the Promise Prize is an incredible opportunity to pursue my goals and be a part of an organization that does so much to engage the community,” said Fils. “It serves as motivation to keep pushing, confirmation that all the sacrifices are worth it, and most importantly, it’s a challenge to live up to and exceed the expectations that you not only have for yourself, but that others have for you as well.”
It was fitting that the award ceremony was part of Montclair State’s annual student pitch contest, where entrepreneurship students showcase their startup projects. During the ceremony, Vice Dean Kimberly Hollister delivered opening remarks describing the prize as well as background about Fils. The Promise Prize was then presented by Pryor and the 2015 winner, Dana LaCondre-Nugent, who is pursuing a Master’s in Accounting at Montclair State, and received Montclair State Bachelor’s in Accounting in 2008.
“We are delighted that Stanley Fils has been selected as the 2016 Promise Prize Scholar,” said Pryor. “He joins other Montclair State Scholars, Alanda Alexandre (2014) and Dana LaCondre-Nugent (2015), as a part of the Promise Prize Scholar network. We are fortunate to count them as a part of the Change Create Transform Foundation community. We look forward to continuing our work and partnership with Montclair State and the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship in their commitment to developing emerging new leaders.”
Fils currently has a 3.80 GPA in Montclair State’s MBA, and majored in Justice Studies with a minor in Sociology as an undergrad at the university. Fils has worked in Montclair State’s Office of Student Financial Aid since 2010, where he has created, implemented and now manages a financial literacy initiative in which he travels to New Jersey high schools to tell students and their parents how to be better at financial matters.
In the area of service, Fils is a Male Leadership Academy Mentor for the university’s Education Opportunity Fund (EOF), a program to help disadvantaged and under-represented students succeed. Besides the direct mentoring he does with students, Fils has also helped organize cultural trips and events to collect professional clothing for the EOF students. Fils, who was once an EOF student as an undergrad, said he enjoys now being a mentor and “helping someone once in your shoes.”
Fils has also played a leadership role as the chairperson of the New Jersey Association of Student Financial Aid Conference Committee. When Stanley met with the Promise Prize selection committee members, he told them: “The more things you get involved in, when asked not to, is what helps you long term.”
Fils is also an entrepreneur. He has been a student in the Feliciano Center’s entrepreneurship classes, and recently started a business, Barblitz, which is a location-based app helping link bars and restaurants with patrons looking for discounts, coupons and promos. He is currently working with tech developers on the app.
Some of the students from Fils’ MBA cohort were in the audience during the ceremony. One of them, Daryle Abrahams, was carrying a handmade sign and balloons and praised Fils’ generosity.
“Our cohort is clearly the better for his enthusiasm and infectious positive attitude. He has joined in our group efforts with gusto and been instrumental in connecting people to each other as well as to MSU. I think I can speak for the group when I say we are all proud to know Stanley, and are delighted at his being recognized for this prize, but not too surprised. … A charming gentleman and a wonderful representative for all of us.”
The Promise Prize was first awarded at Montclair State in 2014, and Montclair State is one of nine colleges/universities in the U.S. with the award. The 2014 winner was Alanda Alexandre, who graduated in May 2015 with a Business Administration degree with concentrations in Finance and Management, and then enrolled in Montclair State’s MBA program in fall 2015.
LaCondre-Nugent, the 2015 winner, said the Promise Prize continues to have an impact on her life.
“I am so honored to have received the award. It has inspired me to get more involved in giving back to my community. While my previous volunteer work focused on fundraising, this past year I have also gotten into mentoring by starting my company’s first internship program. It was great to be able to share things I have learned in my career and schooling with an upcoming Montclair State graduate, and help him to reach his goals. The Promise Prize and Change Create Transform Foundation has helped me in my career, and I am proud to carry on that giving spirit by helping others,” LaCondre-Nugent said.
The selection committee for the 2016 Promise Prize included: Marketing Professor Devon Johnson, Career Services Coordinator Mariah Mayers, Finance Professor Hermann Sintim-Aboagye, and Feliciano Center Program Manager Sharon Waters.