Cynthia Walker's way of honoring the memory of her daughter, Jennifer Cakert, a Ventnor artist who died in 2006, is to support other young artists in pursuit of their dreams.
Cakert, 26, was an aspiring writer, poet and photographer when she died in 2006 of natural causes.
The Jan-Ai Scholarship Fund was created shortly after Cakert's death with a mission of giving scholarships to young people pursuing a career in the arts. Since April 2007, the fund has donated more than $76,000 to 200 young artists ages 13 to 30 in an array of artistic backgrounds, from writers and painters to musicians and photographers.
The fund is named for Cakert's childhood nickname, which means "one who loves people." Many of the fund recipients have been students or graduates of Atlantic City High School, Cakert's alma mater, and some received multiple scholarships through the fund, such as Brigantine native and ACHS graduate Katie Boyd, an aspiring photographer.
Boyd received three Jan-Ai scholarships, two in high school - the first $100 and the second $150, both of which she used to purchase film - and a $1,000 scholarship while in college. After high school, Boyd went on to the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where she majored in photography. She used the $1,000 for tuition.
Boyd said receiving the scholarships not only helped her financially, but the recognition gave her the confidence to choose photography as a career path.
"It helps people to actually realize their dreams," Boyd said. "Before I was recognized for my photography, I didn't see it as a career. I knew it made me happy, but I saw it as just a hobby. I
didn't think a life in it was possible."
Today, Boyd, 23, lives in New York City, where she works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, pursuing a career in photography and graphic design.
Walker said her daughter's passion and promotion of the arts lives on through these young people.
"It makes me feel like in some ways she's still alive and making a difference," she said.
On April 10, the Jan-Ai Scholarship Fund held a zumbathon fundraiser at Atlantic City High School, led by ACHS art teacher, certified zumba instructor and Jan-Ai Scholarship Fund board member Dr. Jennifer Pullman.
The event raised $600, gathering about 50 participants including 12 additional zumba instructors.
"It was high energy and a lot of fun for a good cause," Pullman said.
Pullman never had the chance to meet Cakert, but said she's heard only good things about the girl, particularly about her talents.
Two years ago, Atlantic City High School's art club members, under Pullman's guidance, painted a mural of Cakert in the school's corridor. The theme of the mural project was people of influence, and it includes portraits of Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and President Barack Obama and Cakert.
"The art students thought what she embodied was influential," Walker said. "That means the world to me."
Walker said her goal is for the fund reach the $100,000 donation mark within the next two years.
"The best ways to honor my daughter's life is to help other young people follow their passion in the arts," she said.
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For more information about the Jan-Ai Scholarship Fund or to a make donation, visit jan-aischolar.org.