An Announcement Regarding Our 2023 Scholarships
Later this week, we will announce our scholarship winners for 2023. Every year I love writing checks for our scholarships – I’m so thrilled to be able to do it. As most of you know, we started the scholarship in the name of my grandfather, Albert Iamelli. His grandkids called him Papa. The scholarship is for student-athletes at Wilmington High School. My grandfather was a football referee and baseball umpire for high school sports for most of his life. He loved it, and he did it until he couldn't physically do it anymore.
We don't fundraise for these scholarships. I write the checks out of my own pocket every year, and I'm happy to do it. I love reading the essays that the kids submit. I love learning about how sports have enriched their lives. I'm so happy every year to congratulate the winners, and I'm going to offer my congratulations to this year's winners as well, at awards night at the High School on May 30, 2023.
But I need to get one thing off my chest. Last year, I made a mistake with our scholarships. It's something I regret and I want to come clean about it. Last year my daughter Gabby was a member of the WHS senior class. I told her that she was not eligible to apply for the scholarship because I was afraid it would look like nepotism. I was too worried about the outward appearance of Gabby winning the scholarship, and so I excluded her from eligibility. I didn't want it to look like Gabby would win just because she's my daughter, so I didn't let her participate. I was wrong for doing so. Looking back on it, I know that I should have given her the opportunity to apply like everybody else.
When I went to last year's Senior awards night at the high school there were many scholarships named for individuals who had passed away. The students that were part of those individuals’ families won those awards. It happened repeatedly, over and over again. And I immediately felt foolish for excluding Gabby from a scholarship in my grandfather's name.
She would have been a shoe-in to win the scholarship even if she weren't my daughter. In fact, the award being in the name of her great grandfather should have meant something. Gabby exemplified and still exemplifies everything it means to be a student athlete. In high school, she danced competitively and played field hockey. She often went directly from one practice to the other, every single day, not getting home until after 10 o'clock at night when she would do her homework and study. All the while producing a high school transcript that was so close to perfect, you'd think it had to be a fake. It's not just about her grades. Her attitude, willingness to help others, and her pure grit and competitive determination made her the exact type of person that should have won the scholarship. I was too worried about what it would look like to everyone else if she’d won. And I took away that opportunity for her to not only participate, but to honor her great grandfather.
Papa loved Gabby more than life itself. And I still remember her as a two-year-old leading my grandfather around the house and making him do whatever she wanted. Pulling him down to sit on the ground with her. Even when it wasn't easy for him to get up anymore, he still did it with a smile on his face because she wanted him to.
Meanwhile I watched other kids receive awards in the names of their family members, and I should have done the same. So before I can put that behind me I have to say I'm sorry Gabby. Because it’s the best I can do to try and make it right, I intend to retroactively present it to you. You continue to make us proud, working hard as a student-athlete in college, and absolutely killing it. Papa would be so proud to have you carry on his legacy.
Moving on to this year, and after realizing my error from last year, I knew that I was not going to make the same mistake again. My son Michael is part of this year's graduating class. While my grandfather took joy in letting Gabby boss him around and watching her dance, he also took joy in watching Mikey play baseball. My grandfather loved baseball. As an umpire who stood behind the plate to do his job, he loved catchers. He often told my grandmother that all he wanted to do was live long enough to see Mikey play baseball in high school. He almost made it. He was able to watch Mikey play when he was younger, from grade school to middle school, but he never got the chance to watch him play in high school.
Mikey, much like his older sister, exemplifies everything my grandfather respected in a student-athlete. Mikey is so good at what he does on the baseball field, simply because of sheer will. He is the epitome of hard work, determination and perseverance. Despite being told that his height would keep him from ever being a college catcher, he ignored it and went out and made it happen himself. His constant and unwavering dedication to working on his craft is something that inspires me every day.
No matter how tired he was, he did his scheduled workouts no matter what, even if it meant driving to the gym in the snow. He would leave one practice, then go to the gym, and after that go hit batting practice in the cage for an hour. In the winter he would shovel a square of snow out of the backyard so he could work on hitting, all the while maintaining all A's on his report card.
I know that if my grandfather were here today. He would sit behind home plate and feel great pride in watching Mikey do his thing. His senior year has statistically been the best season of his life. As a team captain he has demonstrated the importance of work ethic to the younger players, and has maintained the top spot in nearly every hitting category. All while dealing with the grind of catching every single inning of every single game.
What he has accomplished this year is nothing short of amazing and every time he takes the field I am filled with pride because I get to call him my son. I am blessed to say that Mike will be continuing his baseball career as a catcher at Eastern Nazarene College next year. They are lucky to have him.
While the WHS Varsity team's season won't go as far as we wanted it to go, he never quit. He never gave up. He never gave less than 100%. It is my honor to give our first scholarship of 2023, the Albert Iamelli Sportsmanship Award and Scholarship, to my son Michael. My Papa would be so proud, even though he's not here with us to watch Mike play. But I think he is watching from upstairs, and he's got the best seat in the house. Congratulations Mike! No one deserves it more.
Stay tuned for the announcement of our other winners, coming soon!