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Homecoming Queen Devoted to Helping Others


Gianna Cannavo, DREAMS for Youth Scholarship recipient from Franklin Square is the ideal role model to students across Long Island. Not only is she ambitious and successful in school, but she excels in activities outside of school - including recently being namd third runner up in the America's Homecoming Queen competition after being crowned 2016 New York State Homecoming Queen. The rigorous competition focused on leadership and altruism, and "paying it forward". Below is Gianna's account of this learning experience and her plans for her future:

Grateful, excited, and determined are three words I would definitely use to describe myself as the next chapter of my life begins.  As attending college was never a question for me, the opportunity of attending one that I had hoped to, and that offered an outstanding Speech-Language Pathology program was. I had an extremely difficult time financially, when it came to funding my education at Towson University this fall. Growing up in a single parent household I witnessed why receiving a higher education was so important, but was not able to afford the flexibility of attending a school that I had personally dreamed of. 

The scholarship I received from United Way added value to my acceptance letter to Towson, as it officially allowed me to attend the college I knew would be the perfect fit for not only myself, but my future.  In just a few days, a day that I wasn't sure would happen will be. This journey will end with a Bachelors degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and will open the doors to a new conquest to attain my Master's degree, and eventual Doctoral degree. I am thankful for this scholarship, as it provides an opportunity to not only pursue my passion for my desired career track but to also venture away from home in order to grow, learn, and experience in a new state and new environment.

While college is just around the corner and my nerves and nostalgia are starting to appear, I can confidently say that I am starting a new beginning with a great ending to an old one. In my most recent activities I have had the honor of being named the 2016 New York State Homecoming Queen. With this humbling title, I recently competed at the America's Homecoming Queen competition in Memphis, Tennessee. There I had the opportunity of meeting incredible young women from across the nation through an organization that focuses on leadership and altruism. After our first day of orientation, the next was filled with an essay, an American quiz, a speech on why people should visit our states, a community service presentation focusing on all we have done, and then a banquet at night with our families. The third day was filled with touring of Memphis, and wonderful experiences at both the St. Jude's Hospital, and The Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. The final night of the competition was our evening gown selection where we were judged on our confidence, a production number, the selection of the top ten followed by their individually judged questions, and then the awarding of America's Homecoming Queen. I am proud to say that I made it to the top ten, and was then named third runner up! After this, we all headed back to the hotel for our final goodbyes and last minute packing for our ride's home.  It was truly an inspiring event that I will never forget. Alongside my exciting experiences in Tennessee, I have also spent most of my summer collecting can tabs throughout my community for the Ronald McDonald House, and will continue to collect them and then deliver them personally.

As for my future, I have decided to devote my life to a career where I will be helping others. I plan to begin this devotion and remain passionate about community service in the coming weeks at Towson University. Towson's involvement fairs, and array of altruistic opportunities will officially be open to me then, and I definitely plan on taking advantage of them!

The DREAMS for Youth Scholarship Program grants awards in two areas: 

Academic: Assists with costs associated with educational goals at a college, university, private or vocational school. Applicants must be in grade 12, demonstrate financial need and a commitment to community service. Financial awards range from $1,000 to $5,000.

Enrichment: Assists with costs associated with activities that enrich the soul, body, heart or inspire creativity. Examples may include music, singing, dance, art lessons; computer graphics training; acting, photography, fashion design; specialized summer camps etc. Funds may be used for enrollment fees, instruments and/or supplies. Applicants must be in grades 7-12, demonstrate financial need and a commitment to community service. Financial awards range from $100 to $2,500.

Scholarships on Long Island
Since its inception in 2002, United Way of Long Island has awarded scholarships and/or grants totaling more than $1,000,000. The DREAMS for Youth Advisory Board, comprised of 7th graders to college students, works under the guidance of United Way staff to make award decisions.

If you are Interested in applying for a DREAMS for Youth Scholarship
Click Here to Download an Application