GARFIELD, N.J. – Cassita Massiah remembers Oct. 12, 2007 like it was yesterday.
The Garfield resident was substitute teaching for a 4th grade class in Harlem, and talking to students about her son Freddie who was training to be a Navy SEAL.
“I was telling them about the work he did in school, and I was telling them that they could do the same thing, work hard and do what they have to do so they can make it,” Massiah recalled.
She kept getting calls throughout the day, but because she was teaching, she ignored them. After school, she learned her son Freddie Porter, just 19, died in a tragic accident during Navy SEAL training in Norfolk, Va.
“That day everything changed for me,” she said.
Freddie, Massiah’s only son, was a 2005 graduate of Garfield High School. He was “a great kid in school” and was “happy about what he was doing” in the military, she said.
Freddie’s dreams were cut short, but Massiah has channeled her pain to help others fulfill theirs.
To keep the memory of her son alive, she created the Freddie Porter Memorial Scholarship Fund. Since 2008, it has awarded over $100,000 in scholarships. The recipients hail from Garfield High School, the Archer United Methodist Church in Allendale, which Massiah attends, and Harlem, where she taught special education for years.
“I cannot bring my son back. But at least I can help the students who are trying to make their dreams come true,” Massiah said.
To raise money for the scholarship fund, a number of fundraisers are held throughout the year. The next event – a night of pocketbook bingo – is this Friday, Oct. 21, at the Boys and Girls Club of Garfield, 490 Midland Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. and bingo starts at 7:30 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to win designer purses from Dooney & Bourke, Coach and Michael Kors. Tickets cost $25.