NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – North Plainfield resident Carlos Pareja was among the Garden State residents to receive a scholarship from Cento Amici, a nonprofit that raises money for scholarships for New Jersey students. Pareja and fellow scholarship students were recognized at the Cento Amici Annual Scholarship Recipient Dinner, which was held at Alfie’s Ristorante in Warren earlier this month.

The evening was a celebration of the 2016-17 student scholarship recipients and provided an opportunity for the students to meet and mingle with members of the organization, including leaders with diverse backgrounds in business, journalism and entertainment as well as entrepreneurs and decorated members of the military. Additionally, CNBC financial analyst, author and genealogy buff Bill Griffeth served as the guest speaker.

“This is my very favorite night of the year because we get to meet some of the students our scholarships have helped,” said Robert Zito, founder and president of Cento Amici. “They are smart, curious, witty, so appreciative…just outstanding individuals. They are tomorrow’s leaders.”

Sign Up for E-News

Among this year’s scholarship recipients was Pareja, who developed a passion for medicine while serving as a medic in the US Navy – where he also obtained his US citizenship – and now plans on continuing his education and becoming a doctor.

“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, during the evening, had the opportunity to speak with Zito, as well as 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. “I believe that anything worth achieving takes much effort especially when life has the ability to place obstacles in your path. Persistence and determination are the traits that will make everything possible.”

As guest speaker, Griffeth shared 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 concluded with students receiving an autographed copy of Griffeth’s newest book, The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir.

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 in grants to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Montclair State University, Union County College, Saint Peter’s Prep, Saint Anthony High School, Roselle Catholic, Delbarton School and an endowed fund for future scholarships.