Kind, generous and caring are the words used by many to describe Coventry High School senior Joseph Conway. Each holiday season, the 18-year-old creates - a project that he begins planning for shortly after New Year's Day. Apart from spreading holiday cheer throughout his neighborhood, for the past three years, he has been using the display to collect non-perishable items for the Coventry Food Bank, and this past winter added The Tomorrow Fund as a beneficiary, also.
“My light display consists of 33,000 lights. My main reason for putting up the display is seeing the kids smile,” said Conway.
It is that spirit and dedication that made Conway the eighth Metta Students Scholarship recipient since the program began last October. Metta means love, kindness and compassion, and the Foundation strives to honor Rhode Island high school students that exhibit these qualities by awarding a $1,000 scholarship each month.
During a ceremony at Coventry High School on Monday morning, Conway was awarded a check from Metta Students to help with college costs next year.
Norm Kelly, Metta Students Founder and CEO of Software Quality Associates in Providence, says his company has always wanted to give back to the community
“I love the uniqueness of Metta Students,” he said. “We are honoring high school kids for their acts of loving-kindness. You do not have to be the smartest or most athletic to be honored with a Metta Student Foundation Scholarship. Our mission is simple - we just want to reward high school students for doing the right thing."
“I have had some tough times in my life, but I know that there are people that have it worse than I do, so that’s why I do my best at putting up the display," said Conway. "I collected donations for the Coventry Food Bank and The Tomorrow Fund, I chose those places because both organizations help people who are in need. I realize many people suffer tough times so the least I can do is put a smile on their faces during the holiday season."
Conway was nominated for the scholarship by his guidance counselor and former elementary school teacher, Amy Siemmao who highlighted his caring demeanor and desire to help others. She mentioned that apart from his light display collections, he also volunteers his time mentoring younger students on the high school's Unified Basketball team.
“Joe is the type of young man that you can expect will help others because he truly wants to," said Siemmao. "His reward is not a grade for a project, or doing community service hours because they are required, it is him making a difference. I have known Joe for about eight years, as both his elementary teacher and now his guidance counselor, he is compassionate, generous, courteous, inclusive, bright and does things for others quietly, without expecting anything in return."
ASFMS Social Worker, Felix Sarubbi, also spoke of Conway's humble nature and how he wanted to help others, even in middle school where he participated in the Gym Happy volunteer program.
"A lot of things that Joey does, he does when no one is looking," he said. "Joey to me, is what I call a presence kid. It's not so much what he does, but who he is and how he is. Joe has a nice temperament, but he also has just a quiet, settled presence and confidence that comes through if you pay any attention at all."
"Joe makes tremendous, quiet contributions that could easily go unnoticed, and that's what I really appreciate about him," Sarubbi continued. "I think it's great that he's being recognized this way."
Kathy Connolly, Development Director of The Tomorrow Fund attended the ceremony to personally thank Conway for his contributions.
“Joey is a considerate young man who believes in giving back. He raised close to $1,000 for The Tomorrow Fund to help children with cancer and their families," Connolly said.
"We really appreciate the donation and Joey has already informed us he will be raising funds for the Tomorrow Fund again next year!" she continued. "It's so great that someone out of the blue took it upon himself to do this for our patients and their families."
Click here to check out our coverage of Joey's "Conway Christmas Lights Extravaganza" this past winter.
For more information about the Metta Students Foundation, visit www.mettastudents.org.