Since 2002, Joanne Grzelak has been giving a $500 scholarship to the graduating daughter of a civil servant at St. John Villa Academy in Staten Island, New York. She was the principal’s secretary at the school for 16 years until she retired in 2012 and the scholarship was in memory of her husband, FDNY chief Joseph Grzelak, who died on 9/11. Her daughters, Debra Grzelak Lauro and Kristie Grzelak Perrotta, were cheerleading coaches at the school until 2016.
So when she found out the school was closing its doors at the end of the school year, Joanne made this graduation one to remember. She and her daughters gave a $500 scholarship to every one of the 76 grads -for a total of $38,000 in all. The graduates were surprised and thankful for her generosity.
"They were so excited and a lot of them told me in notes they would use it for their school books and that's exactly what I wanted," Grzelak says. "As long as it helps in some way. I just really wanted to help them out in any way I could."