West New York resident and Memorial High School student Brandon Cedeno hoped to accomplish exactly that when he wrote an essay nominating his older brother, 4-year U.S. Marine Corps member George Cedeno, Jr. for the NJ Hall of Fame.
His essay was one of two winning pieces selected out of 1,000 entries in 2007.
According to New Jersey Hall of Fame spokesman Don Jay Smith, Brandon's essay was the winner of all high school essay submissions. Jessica Cutler from Millstone won the middle school category.
"Brandon was certainly a deserving young man, and he was very impressive," said Smith, adding, "His family should be very proud of him."
In fact, praise for Brandon came from as high up as Gov. Jon Corzine, who met with Cedeno in October and announced him as the Hall of Fame's first essay contest winner.
Said Brandon of Gov. Corzine, "He's pretty cool. He was really nice, and I was glad he took the time out of his busy schedule to stop by to say hi to me and congratulate me."
15-year-old Brandon will make a guest appearance and read his essay at the May 4 induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame's first inaugural class, which includes people like Yogi Berra, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Meryl Streep, and Frank Sinatra.
One in a thousand
"I'm just kind of a quiet person," said Cedeno, who later added, "This is the first time I've ever won something. I've never won anything."
As part of a class assignment in his freshman year, Cedeno was encouraged to write about ordinary people who had done extraordinary things, specifically those who were either born in New Jersey or had lived in the state for some time.
"I actually look up to [my brother] because he's a good role model," said Cedeno, adding, "He's always succeeded in what he's wanted to do. I want to be on the high level of where he is. It's amazing to me what he's done and how he went through everything."
Brandon looks up to his brother and what he went through to get to where he is despite an unstable home life, relocating, 3-month bootcamp training, and a year-long flight school program. Brandon is most proud of his brother's position as Aircrew Chief of the President George W. Bush's presidential squadron, the group responsible for transporting the president.
In the essay, Cedeno highlighted his brother's ventures such as embarking upon relief missions to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, California after the 2007 wildfires, and Thailand and Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami.
Cedeno's freshman English teacher, Mrs. Schnur, gave the assignment to the class and handpicked the top five to submit for the contest.
A rewarding experience
Cedeno and Cutler will have their nominations for the Hall of Fame forwarded to the state's Hall of Fame Academy for consideration in 2008 voting.
Whether their nominees get inducted or not, the Hall of Fame rewarded the young writers with a limousine ride to New Jersey's Legislative State House, where the winners and their families enjoyed a luncheon.
According to Smith, the winners will also have their names engraved on a plaque in the Hall of Fame's museum, a near $15 million project that is planned to be built in the next 3 to 5 years.
Brandon also had a choice of gifts between gift cards, money, electronics, and scholarship money.
"I picked the scholarship money, because that's going to be really helpful for me when I'm older," said Brandon, who hopes to pursue a career in meteorology.
"I thought of going to Kean University, because it's close to me and one of my teachers told me Kean has a good meteorology program," said Brandon.
Brandon, who notes he "constantly" watches the Weather Channel, has been interested in weather since his brief residency in Florida.
Brandon cited another opportunity in which he could echo his role model's life.
"If [I don't get in], I'll just join the Coast Guard and study meteorology there."
New Jersey is one of four states to have a state Hall of Fame joining the likes of South Dakota, South Carolina, and California. For more information on the New Jersey Hall of Fame and its essay contest, visit www.njhalloffame.com.
Nicolas Millan can be reached at NMillan@hudsonreporter.com.