Gulliver is pleased to announce that senior Alessandra Maggioni has been awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award for her exemplary volunteer work. The award was presented to her in a ceremony held at the Gulliver Preparatory campus on Wednesday, March 8.
Alaz Sengul '17 and Kelly Ann Cosentino '19 were also recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program during the ceremony, each receiving a Certificate of Merit for their service to the community.
Gulliver nominated Alessandra for national honors this fall in recognition of her volunteer service with Nicklaus Children's Hospital. The award recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country. This recognition is granted by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program on behalf of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.
"The spirit of this award, and Alessandra's hard work, speak directly to Gulliver's commitment to leadership through service. Her contributions to the community are a perfect illustration of what it means to live with integrity and responsibility," said Head of Schools, Frank Steel. "Alessandra is an exemplary student, role model for her peers, and ambassador for Gulliver."
Alessandra was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis, halting her dream of becoming a professional tennis player. Four years after her diagnosis, she underwent an intensive surgery called posterior spinal fusion, where her back was reconstructed with two metal rods and 26 screws. While her movement is limited in terms of sports, she is able to continue a healthy lifestyle and be physically active.
"Not being able to play tennis was devastating to my parents and me, so I decided to dedicate my life to help others instead," said Alessandra, a 2017 Silver Knight awards nominee. "My surgery has truly been a blessing in disguise."
Alessandra became an ambassador for Nicklaus Children's Hospital and now attends hospital fundraisers, where she speaks publicly about her journey to raise funds benefitting children with her same medical condition. Last year, at the hospital's annual Wine, Women and Shoes fashion event, she helped raise more than $1 million. At other events, such as the Flying with the Stars charity dinner, she helped raise $40,000.
Among her many achievements and philanthropic initiatives, Alessandra makes it a priority to meet and mentor children and their families who have learned they must undergo fusion surgery. In 2015, with support from her engineering teacher at Gulliver, she created a patent-pending device for patients in pain after fusion surgery. She also speaks regularly about her journey at conferences and seminars, and delivered a TEDx Talk titled Bent, Not Broken. Receiving this award has inspired Alessandra to expand her volunteer work even further.
"Winning this award gives me more fuel to continue helping others and to expand my work, for example with the orphanage my family and I are opening in the Dominican Republic," said Alessandra. "Doing my volunteer work has never been something that I do for recognition – it's always about helping others – but to see that it does get recognized, and to see the difference I'm making in people's lives, it really inspires me to keep moving forward even through the hard times."