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Scholarship founded for Huntington Station teenager killed in crash

Left: Ray Vega, 18, of Huntington Station, seen

Left: Ray Vega, 18, of Huntington Station, seen as a sophomore in a 2011 Huntington High School yearbook photo. Right: Carmen Rivera-Gotay as seen as a freshman in the 2011 Huntington High School yearbook. Both died when Vega clipped another car, lost control of the car he was driving and struck a tree, police said. (June 29, 2013) Credit: Handout

A scholarship has been established in the name of Carmen Rivera-Gotay, the 17-year-old Huntington High School student killed in a car crash last year.

The Huntington Station teenager died June 29 after the driver of the car she was in lost control and careened into a tree on Walt Whitman Road in Melville. Ray Vega, the 18-year-old driver and a 2013 graduate of Huntington High, also died in the crash.

The annual $500 scholarship was established by Rivera-Gotay's family and was approved by the school board Monday. The recipient will be an academically "average" student who exemplifies Rivera-Gotay's traits of helpfulness, cheerfulness, positivity and good heartedness.

Rivera-Gotay, who had just finished her junior year, had played violin in the high school orchestra as a freshman. She was a respected employee at King Kullen in Huntington Station.

"I want to keep her memory alive," Carolyn Gotay, her mother, said. "I don't want people to forget the type of person she was and is."

Huntington High Principal Carmela Leonardi described Carmen as a "very bright, fun, friendly person." She likes that the scholarship targets students who land in the middle of academic achievement.

"This is an incentive for them [students] to be supported and recognized to say 'Yes, we have confidence in you, and we think you can make it,' " she said.

For now, the scholarship is funded by The Schlitt Law Firm in Huntington, which has pledged to donate its $8,000 fee due from a settlement with car insurance companies to the scholarship fund. The Gotay family will also raise funds and solicit donations.

Rivera-Gotay was a passenger in the car with Vega, 18, as they made their way home about 1:15 a.m. after going to Taco Bell on Route 110. Vega, who had graduated from high school days before, tried to speed his Honda Accord past a Pontiac Grand Am being driven by his older brother when he lost control.

"I want people to know that she put her heart out there," Gotay said. "She never judged anyone."

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