Dinner was kicked off with a set of short speeches welcoming students and guests at Alfie’s Ristorante in Warren, New Jersey. “This is my very favorite night of the year because we get to meet some of the students our scholarships have helped. They are smart, curious, witty, so appreciative…just outstanding individuals. They are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Robert Zito of Tewksbury, founder and president of Cento Amici, a nonprofit that raises money for scholarships for New Jersey students.
He introduced the scholarship recipients in the room including Carlos Pareja, a North Plainfield resident currently a student at Raritan Valley Community College who developed a passion for medicine while serving in the US Navy — where he got his US citizenship– and now plans on becoming a doctor.
Zito then introduced the evening’s guest speaker, financial analyst, author and genealogy buff, CNBC’s Bill Griffeth who welcomed the students. “Thank you for inviting me to join you all this evening.” He then wowed the room with his personal story of how a simple DNA test complicated his life and also talked with some students sharing insight on his TV career.
The evening was a celebration of the 2016-17 student scholarship recipients who got to meet and mingle with members of the organization that include leaders with diverse backgrounds in business, journalism and entertainment as well as entrepreneurs and decorated members of the military.
“I am grateful for my scholarship and appreciate people who are very generous towards people in need, and I hope one day to be able to help others in return,” said Pareja who was thrilled to talk with Zito, businessman Joe Grano of New Vernon, a Green Beret who earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam, and retired Col. Jack Jacobs of Far Hills, a Medal of Honor recipient, the highest military honor you can receive. “I believe that anything worth achieving takes much effort especially when life has the ability to place obstacles in your path,” said Pareja. Persistence and determination are the traits that will make everything possible.”
The evening concluded with students getting a copy of Griffeth’s newest book, “The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir,” and all gathered to have the book personally autographed.
College of the Arts’ Award Recipients
The College of the Arts at Montclair State University is one of five New Jersey schools receiving scholarships from the Cento Amici organization. Established at Montclair in 1999, the scholarship has recognized 154 College of the Arts’ students since its inception. This year’s recipients (including their respective majors), representing each of the College of the Arts’ four academic units, are:
School of Music
Ian Castro, Vocal/Music Performance
Olivia Manna, Vocal/Music Performance
James Reed Ricotta, Music/Music Education
Danielle Sinclair, Violin/Music Performance
Department of Theatre and Dance
Melanie Molina, Dance
Sophia Voglino, Theatre
Brian Sedita, Acting/Theatre
School of Communication and Media
Avery Federico, Television and Digital Media
Jantzen Rogalski, Television and Digital Media
Francesca Ricotta, Public Relations/Communication Studies
Department of Art and Design
Ramzi Husein, Visual design/Graphic Design
Marco Fontana, Industrial Design
Evan Tortorelli, Animation/Illustration
“The College of the Arts is grateful to have been chosen as a beneficiary institution of Cento Amici’s 100-plus friends – and we thank them for their generosity and support over the years. Particular thanks go to Cento Amici member Joseph Canderozzi, who initially brought the scholarship to Montclair and who serves on the College of the Arts’ Advisory Board,” — Linda Davidson, Assistant Dean, College of the Arts.
Cento Amici is a 501c3 nonprofit community-based member organization that raises funds for scholarships in New Jersey. Its grants are given to educational institutions where qualified students are then selected by their school’s established need-based and merit-based criteria. This year Cento Amici awarded $110,000 to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Montclair State University, Union County College, Saint Peter’s Prep, Saint Anthony High School, Roselle Catholic High School, Delbarton School and an endowed fund for future scholarships.