INTERVIEW: Jonneigh Adrion and the Debut of the Jeyson Reyes Memorial Scholarship

On Wednesday, June 7, the Jeyson Reyes Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a graduating senior of Sayville High School’s class of 2023. Jeyson tragically passed away on Sept. 22, 2021, so the scholarship is making its debut this year, as Jeyson would have been graduating with this senior class.

The Mother’s Bond: Jeyson Reyes and Jonneigh Adrion.

Jonneigh Adrion, Jeyson’s mother as well as Village Clerk of the Incorporated Village of Ocean Beach, organized the scholarship and utilized GoFundMe to help raise money. On the page she wrote: “His big generous heart, his awesome personality and his ability to connect with people, will hands down be his legacy.” Thanks to the support of those who loved Jeyson, including many members of the South Shore and Fire Island communities, the scholarship fund raised $5,000.

Those who didn’t know Jeyson learned of his kind heart through the stories recounted by his loved ones. A few of these were in the Fire Island News obituary as well. One that sticks out is when he gave $20 to a man experiencing homelessness. The man told Jeyson that he had fallen off the wagon, to which he responded empathetically with, “I hope you get back on!” before getting home and asking what falling off the wagon even meant.

Jonneigh reiterated this gift of Jeyson’s saying: “Jeyson was a kind of exceptional kid. He was a one-in-a-million kid. He just had that big heart for people and love of people. And he had forgiveness.”

Knowing that of Jeyson’s legacy, it’s evident that an award in his memory should be centered around a student’s character above all else. The official Sayville Public School District memo regarding the scholarship reads that the award will be presented to a student who “reinforce[s] the importance of being a good human.”

Everyone who knew Jeyson knew that he was kind, but there’s something that people may not have known about him that further contributed to the requirements and selection process of the scholarship. Jeyson was learning disabled, and school could be a real challenge for him. Jonneigh also acknowledged that Jeyson was not athletically gifted, so she didn’t want academics or athletics to be any sort of basis for the award. “I really wanted it to come from the heart of the child,” she said.

Jonneigh worked with the school to get the scholarship set up, though that collaboration was nothing new to her. She had an extensive meeting with teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors each year to discuss Jeyson’s progress. This turned out to be a sort of gift later, as she got to see first-hand what an impact Jeyson made on the lives of those around him.

“They all knew Jeyson. It was helpful because they were also devastated by it,” Jonneigh said.

Sayville High School’s Timari Jackson has been chosen to be the first-time recipient of the Jeyson Reyes Memorial Scholarship.

She recalled her first visit to the high school regarding the scholarship where she saw that a faculty member had Jeyson’s obituary pinned onto their office bulletin board. It also was touching to see how many of Jeyson’s former teachers and classmates showed up at his wake.

When it came time to sort through the 14 applicants and their letters of recommendation, Jonneigh specially chose some of Jeyson’s favorite teachers to help her. They knew his heart and how it demonstrated itself within the school walls, so she trusted them to help her find the most deserving student.

“If they were able to see it in Jeyson, they’ll be able to see it in other kids,” she said.