Memorial scholarship to honor Woodhaven teen

Photo courtesy Matthew DiMella
By Sarina Trangle

Several teachers at the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture have started a scholarship fund to honor a graduate who died in a remote-controlled model helicopter accident late last summer.

The Roman Pirozek Memorial Scholarship has amassed about $1,500, but Brad Shenkman, a global and American history teacher, said he and his colleagues hope to raise $5,000 before they award the first scholarship this June.

“I wanted to do something nice for the family. A fellow colleague said we should do a no-shave November,” Shenkman said of a fund-raising technique where participants do not shave for a month and give the money they would have spent on razors and shaving cream to charitable causes while drawing attention to the initiatives. “I said, ‘Let’s do it for Roman.’ And that’s how it all got started.”

Roman Pirozek Jr., a Woodhaven resident, was attempting to complete a stunt with a model helicopter in Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn when the machine turned toward him and its 3-foot long blades sliced off the top of his head and part of his shoulder, police said. Officers pronounced him dead at the scene. He was 19.

Shenkman said the staff is still deciding what criteria they will use to select a recipient for the scholarship. He said it will benefit a CTEA student bound for college, but he was not sure if they would focus on rewarding students with leadership skills or aspirations to work in construction — two characteristics he said epitomized Pirozek.

Pirozek won the Harry van Arsdale Award from Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers and worked at John F. Kennedy International Airport handling cargo for Saudi Arabia Airlines, British Airways and Iberia Airlines, according to Shenkman. The teacher said he took an apprenticeship with Local 15 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Pirozek was known as an avid master of model helicopters and had picked up the hobby from his father, vice president of the Seaview Rotary Wings chapter of the Academy of Model Aeronautics Charter Club.

Shenkman said he grew close to the Pirozek family after he took a group of 23 students to Paris, including Roman Pirozek and his sister, Amy Pirozek.

“He was a leader. Whenever I needed to count the kids, he would count them all, make sure we’re all together,” Shenkman said. “He was just a great person, fun to be around, joke around with, but he knew when to get serious.”

The Pirozek family was touched by the teachers’ efforts.

“I told them what I was doing and we all started crying,” Shenkman said. “In my 12 years of teaching, having him die was one of the hardest things I’ve had happen.”

Shenkman said he is accustomed to having a beard and felt a little strange shaving it off at the beginning of the month. His usually clean-shaven colleagues complained about their faces itching when the hair first began to sprout.

Now that the no-shave fund-raiser has concluded, Shenkman said teachers at the Ozone Park school are planning a spring fund-raiser, which will feature a buffet dinner, 50/50 raffles and possibly a silent auction.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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