Westport PAL has been a huge influence in the lives of twin brothers Mike and Chris Giunta. The Staples seniors were rewarded Wednesday for their commitment to the program, the community and their leadership when they received the P.J. Romano Award from the organization.
The Giunta brothers shared the award with Julia Friedman. It is the first time the Romano Award has had a tie. The Romano family awarded each of the students the full scholarship.
PAL granted scholarships to 27 high school and college students. Staples' senior Cole Manley received PAL's Jonathan Uman Award, named for the only Westport resident to die in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Giunta brothers and Friedman, who played basketball at Staples before injuries cut short her career, were honored for embracing the teachings and philosophy of former longtime PAL Executive Director P.J. Romano. The brothers came through the PAL program in both sports and dedicated time to the organization after they reached high school. Both boys were particularly active in the PAL wrestling program.
"It's great to know that all the hard work and giving back is recognized,'' Michael said.
Both brothers plan to attend Quinnipiac University in the fall. They will not compete in varsity sports but plan to participate for club teams. One thing they will miss in college is the commitment to the community that goes with being part of Westport PAL. "Helping with the PAL has been great,'' Chris said. "It's a great program for what they do for the kids in town."
Michael said assisting with the wrestling program may have planted the seed for coaching. "Helping out with the wrestling program has been a lot of fun,'' he said. "When you see them come back year after year and they get better every time, it's a great thing to see."
The Giunta brothers and Friedman were also awarded athletic scholarships. Other athletic scholarship winners included Nicole Brill, Courtney Garzone and Marykate Vansant. Recipients of Sam Luciano Scholarships for good citizenship included Rebecca Bobrow, Taylor Boone, Katie Cioe, Farrel Levinson, Madeline Mafilios and D.J. Sixsmith.
College students receiving Ellis Scholarships included Kelly Romano, Tim Romano, Michele Pocius, Matt Santora, Ryan Benincase, Dylan Bobrow, John Nixon, Crissy Skutnik, Kelly Tienken, Lukas Van Zanten, George Wickey, Matt Kelly, Mike McCarthy and Jake Santora.
PAL generates its money for the scholarship through its annual golf tournament and donations.
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