Skip to main content

Sophomore Earns State Award for Leadership and Service

Posted Date: 05/29/2024

Sophomore Earns State Award for Leadership and Service

Sophia Zanelotti, a sophomore at Wantagh High School, recently received the New York State Senate Youth Leadership Recognition Award. She was presented with the honor from State Sen. Steve Rhoads and was nominated by guidance counselors Marie Malafis and Chris Nyberg. 

The award honors outstanding students who are identified as future leaders. They must not only excel academically, but also through leadership in extracurricular and volunteer activities.

Sophia works with the Town of Hempstead’s Camp ANCHOR program, which serves children and adults with special needs. She volunteers weekly with the ANCHOR bowling league at East Meadow Lanes, typically supervising eight bowlers at two lanes. The best part of the experience, she explained, is interacting with the campers.

“I love it,” Sophia said. “It’s great making friends with everybody and I enjoy when they come up and have conversations with me. I love meeting new people, talking to people and learning about their experiences.”

She also volunteers with her church, St. Markella Greek Orthodox, in Wantagh. She helps out at many events, such as church festivals, and is an assistant Sunday school teacher. At Wantagh High School, Sophia is a member of the General Organization representing the Class of 2026.

The Mandalay Elementary School graduate enjoys taking art classes and also challenges herself with Advanced Placement courses. As a 10th grader, she enrolled in AP Biology, AP European History and AP Seminar. 

For the Youth Leadership Recognition Award, Sophia had to fill out an application and write an essay about her greatest achievement. She cited a close bond she formed with a participant in the Camp ANCHOR program. 

“I was grateful just to have the nomination,” she said, “but to get the award is surreal and it’s definitely very validating. Community service, a lot of times, is measured in hours. It’s nice to have recognition for more than just a number that goes onto the paper.”

Upon receiving a flier seeking nominations for the award, Ms. Malafis said she immediately thought of Sophia. The guidance counselor described her student as smart, motivated and someone who “thrives when she’s able to do for others.”

Youth Leadership Award