Melissa Benenson, a senior at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, recently was honored as 2011-12 Student of the Year by Junior Achievement of New York.

The nonprofit agency selected Benenson based on a teacher nomination and her efforts promoting financial literacy among youngsters at Howard B. Mattlin Middle School and Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School. She was feted at a gala in Manhattan on Nov. 29.

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"I was shocked, but I was really happy to be chosen for this," said Benenson, 17. "The kids were all so eager to participate, and they had so much fun. At that age, their parents are starting to open their first bank accounts, so it was perfect."

Benenson said she and several peers talked to the children about the importance of money management and led them through a project in which they created fictional businesses, such as candy shops and sporting goods stores.

After being nominated, Benenson submitted an application and essay last year and was interviewed twice by state Junior Achievement representatives. She was awarded a $1,000 college scholarship.

Benenson is a member of her school's Distributive Education Clubs of America Chapter as well as the National Honor Society and Business Honor Society.