IRHS Hall of Fame adds 1987 grad to rolls

Date Published: 
June 6, 2014

This year’s Indian River High School Hall of Fame inductee is a doctor, mother, fundraiser and cancer survivor. She was also voted “Most Likely to Study on a Thursday Night” in college.

Consistency and community are the most important things to 2014 inductee Devi Enerio-Ellant, Class of ’87.

“I will always call myself a Delawarean — better yet, a Delawarean from Sussex County,” said the nowadays New Yorker.

The Hall of Fame was established (and restarted in 2012) to recognize IRHS graduates who have made significant achievements in their chosen fields and made noteworthy contributions to society on a local, national or international level.

“By honoring graduates who have become outstanding citizens, we hope to inspire current students in their areas of studies, community service and extra-curricular opportunities,” the nomination packet states.

“I tell my New York friends Delaware was the best place to grow up,” Enerio-Ellant said.

Her family moved to Dagsboro from the Philippines when she was 4, and the children became IRHS’s only Asian students, apart from someone from Laos.

“However, we blended in and were treated as equals,” she recalled, suggesting that her success came from the community’s high “level of support and encouragement.” She also worked hard for her successes.

“You can have a dream, but you have to be consistent,” she told the Class of 2014 at IR’s senior awards night. Be determined, show up and get involved (even if that means being late for class or applying for a long-shot job), she added.

She also reminded them the importance of family and faith.

“Give back to your community and don’t forget where you came from,” she added. As her class vice president, she has organized six reunions since graduation.

Principal Bennett Murray encouraged students to use people like Enerio-Ellant as a model to work hard and do good.

“You guys will be alumni just like her,” he said.

Presented with the honor at senior awards night, Enerio-Ellant herself had been Delaware’s first winner of the Campbell Soup Company’s $40,000 scholarship.

As much as she loved Dagsboro, she double-majored at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She was already active in her community there, delivering Thanksgiving dinners to homeless families and serving as a Eucharistic minister at the campus chapel.

Enerio-Ellant said she “realized that helping others … means a great deal to those people you are helping,” which she said can, hopefully, serve as a model to encourage others to help.

She researched a children’s genetic disorder at Cornell Medical Center in New York and at North Shore University Hospital, eventually publishing the results.

She studied in locations from Texas to Spain, including the Winnebago Indian Reservation in Nebraska, where she treated severe diabetics and learned important limb-salvage techniques.

Earning a doctorate from New York College of Podiatric Medicine, she garnered a competitive surgical residency and has worked for the past 13 years at Hotel Trades Council Midtown Health Center and Brooklyn Health Center, serving patients who include chefs, actors, hotel workers and their families.

She has volunteered her services both at the New York City Marathon and at Ground Zero after 9/11.

When not healing others, she’s busy with her own three children.

To fundraise for school supplies, teacher support and afterschool programs, Enerio-Ellant implemented a new handheld bidding technology. Known for its auction fundraiser, Hunter College Elementary School raised a record amount of money.

She appears to be rubbing off on her children, as two of them fundraised in school and online to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Between school and the Web, they raised more than $3,000 and 10 boxes of supplies. They still volunteer at soup kitchens and choose a charity to donate their own money.

“‘We are all meant to shine, as children do,’” Enerio-Ellant quoted from author Marianne Williamson. “‘As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the strength to do the same.’”

“In 2011, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing major surgery, Dr. Enerio-Ellant has shifted her focus to supporting and fundraising for breast cancer,” wrote her Hall of Fame nominator, Tia Beth Watson. “She chooses to come to Delaware, rather than New York, every year after her diagnosis, to walk with her Indian River High School friends to raise money for the Delaware chapter for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.”

Team Devi has been a top fundraiser for three years.

As a board member of Sailing Heals, she hopes Delaware will soon be a location for the nonprofit program designed to give cancer and trauma victims “a soulful day at sea” during their treatments and recovery.

“I believe that my friend and classmate Devi shows outstanding leadership skills and has shown exemplary contributions to society here in Delaware, where she grew up, as well as in New York City,” Watson wrote.