Scholarship Review

Joseph Cirilano III

Central Catholic High School
Senior? Yes
Elite top 100? Yes
Letters of recommendation: Letter of Recommendation 1, Letter of Recommendation 2


Throughout my high school career, I have volunteered in various communities. They include three service trips to an impoverished community in Webster Springs, WV; three trips (I’m returning this summer) to the Mustard Seed orphanage in Jamaica, caring for orphaned, disabled children and adults; volunteering at the local Swissvale Food Pantry; and other volunteer events as a result of being a member of the Executive Committee of the LaSallian Ministry at my high school. One volunteer experience through the Ministry that strongly influenced me was in Chicago working with the homeless and becoming aware of stereotypes, racism and poverty. Initially, volunteering was a task that I had to complete. I saw it as a certain number of hours I would have to suffer through just to get it done. But I had a change of heart, and that change came from the actual service. I realize that volunteering is much more than helping someone because it’s required. Service is a way to give back and helps me to realize my good fortune and privileges. I now find volunteering to be a two-way street where I receive as much as I give. Volunteering has made me a more joyful, compassionate and empathetic person.
Through volunteering, I have learned to appreciate the life and dignity of each person. We are all one family and should treat each other that way despite our differences and avoid stereotyping people. Stereotypes reinforce the idea that people are poor because of their own deficiencies rather than the host of other factors that lead to poverty. I learned that breaking down my stereotypes of poor people and people of other races was important so that I could begin to understand the real reasons for poverty and racism. By experiencing the daily lives, struggles and stories of the people I serve, I have an understanding of what they go through and in turn want to help instead of blaming or disliking. Spending time in Webster Springs, Chicago, Jamaica and Swissvale has truly enlightened me. I realize that for the betterment of everyone in society, we need to move past stereotypes and focus on the basic needs of people living in poverty and how we can set them up for success. For the sake of ourselves and humanity, we should come together and participate as a family and community, remembering that all human life is important.
I hope that my service in these communities has helped not only to ease some of their burden but also communicates that people do care about them and that they are not forgotten. Through my example, I have motivated my family members and friends to volunteer and they too have experienced the joy that comes from helping others. Going forward, I plan to continue volunteering while in college as well as continue my work at the Pantry when I am home. My view on volunteering is no longer a resume builder but rather an essential part of my life that brings me joy.