Washington Township High School students Francesca Dostillio and Jake Minnick have been awarded the Gift of Heart Community Scholarship for their longtime volunteerism.
The $1,000 award, presented last month, was created in 2015 by Hoffman DiMuzio, a law firm with offices in Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem counties. The firm established the Gift of the Heart Community Scholarship Foundation to recognize students who have shown a passion for others throughout their community.
“My partner, Kenneth A. DiMuzio Sr., and I established this foundation because of our mutual goal to encourage students to not only work to the best of their ability in their studies, but also to cultivate a servant’s heart,” said the firm’s Joseph Hoffman Jr.
High schools in the three counties each nominate two students who have shown compassion and dedication to volunteerism to receive the $1,000 scholarship.
“Volunteering is the backbone of a functioning society,” said Minnick. “It’s everyone’s societal responsibility to lend a hand to someone else in need. We are all human, we all need each other.”
Minnick has volunteered with his family since he was a child. He has been a member of the teen advisory council for the Ronald McDonald House of South Jersey and volunteered for the food bank in Philadelphia and the Epilepsy Foundation. His favorite volunteer opportunity is working with the Special Olympics as a soccer coach.
“I just absolutely love helping out with the soccer team,” he noted. “In school, we run a partner club called Project Unify that I have dedicated a lot of time to to try and foster a better school environment for everyone.
“To see a smile or a laugh from a student with special needs is the greatest part of volunteering and high school.”
Dostillio has worked with disabled adults during the school Interact Club’s Festival of Friends Carnival. As an executive board member for the club, she has chaired annual events that included food and clothing drives and an ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Association fundraiser that collected $15,000.
Dostillio also traveled to Athens, Greece to furnish and decorate a children’s school in a poor neighborhood.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that there are many families right in Washington Township in need of help or assistance,” Dostillio related. “A lot of my volunteer work now is done through the Interact Club at WTHS, but I have been involved in projects that affect people across the country or even around the world, and it’s nice to know that, through Interact, I am able to make a difference in my own community, because everyone deserves to have the means to grow, thrive, and live comfortably.”
Although senior year is coming to an end, Dostillio still looks forward to volunteer opportunities before graduation, including the annual Monzo Madness Fundraiser and the Festival of Friends.
“For now, I am focusing on Interact’s end-of-the-year activities,” she said. “Beyond that, college awaits, and I am excited to get involved down in Florida.”
Both students have recently accepted offers from colleges of their choice. Dostillio was accepted to University of Miami and will study biochemistry and nutrition. Minnick will attend American University in Washington, D.C., to study political science and government.
The students hope to continue their volunteer work in college.
“My true passion in life is politics,” Minnick said, “If you think about it, volunteering and public service are really the same thing. I hope to implement all I have learned about people to the largest stage possible and eventually run for president to help those in need.”