Linwood Donelson, III, Esq.
Class of 2009
Linwood Donelson wasn’t overly familiar with Salem County Vocational Technical Schools when Jason Helder–then admission recruiter for SCVTS–came to visit his eighth grade classroom at Lower Alloways Creek School in 2004. Nonetheless, Donelson recalls hearing about the school’s Academy of Biological and Medical Sciences program during Helder’s presentation and being drawn to it almost immediately.
“I thought it was an interesting program geared towards more intensive academic requirements,” Donelson said. “The school was very non-traditional with smaller classes and the program was science-based.”
Donelson started at SCVTS in September 2005 and quickly got involved with nearly every club and activity among the narrow array offered to students at that time, including FFA, HOSA, DuPont Academic League and National Honor Society. During his sophomore year, Donelson recounts how the academy pivoted from being a dual-track program to centering exclusively on the medical sciences. It was at that point when he really got involved with HOSA, formerly Health Occupations Students of America.
“I was participating in HOSA competitions on the Regional, State and even National levels,” he said. “I enjoyed traveling around the country competing and also at the same time developing friendships with my fellow students that I still have today.”
During his senior year, Donelson ultimately achieved the honor of serving as the State HOSA President.
Donelson credits several teachers at SCVTS, including Nicole Cerqueira, Natalie Chick, Julie Smith and Don Bailey, with challenging him academically and placing lofty expectations on the academy’s students to excel and succeed regardless of their ambitions beyond high school.
“One of the many things I learned by taking the program I did was that I did not want to have a career in the sciences or the medical field,” Donelson said. “It wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. My goal, off and on, even as a young child, had been to become a lawyer, and I decided to pursue that career.”
Donelson’s post-secondary journey included a Political Science degree from Stockton University in 2013, where he was named Valedictorian, and eventually post-grad studies at Rutgers School of Law. Following his completion of law school in 2016, Donelson was selected as a Fellow with Rutgers Law Associates, a program affiliated with Rutgers School of Law that serves the general practice legal needs of low to moderate income residents in New Jersey. Through this program, he met his future law partners, Chris D’Alessandro and Keith Peterson. After completing the fellowship in 2019 they formed the law firm of Donelson, D’Alessandro & Peterson, LLC located in Woodbury.
Although his medical science studies during high school didn’t necessarily connect the dots to his current occupational arena, Donelson credits SCVTS with helping him realize the path he needed to take to achieve his goal and enter college ready and prepared.
“We had 43 students in our graduating class in 2009,” Donelson recalls. “I enjoyed the small class size and being exposed to an array of different career paths. We had to sacrifice a little something when deciding to go to a non-traditional high school which didn’t have sports or more extra-curricular activities.”
Donelson, who is also the President of the Board of the Special Services School District and the Vocational Technical School District of the County of Salem, is happy to see the manifold opportunities available to current generations of students at SCVTS with the addition of several new career and technical programs; the advent of interscholastic athletics; and a greater assortment of clubs and activities.
All of it, according to Donelson, adds up to SCVTS being a coveted destination for the students of Salem County.
“The enrollment continues to increase every year,” he said. “The Salem County Vocational Technical School continues to be a great place to go to high school. I will forever cherish the friendships I’ve made there and the educational experiences I will always be grateful for.”
Donelson, an active member of his community, resides in Lower Alloways Creek.