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Gelinas student raises money in mother's memory

Joseph Nizza, a ninth-grader at P.J. Gelinas Junior

Joseph Nizza, a ninth-grader at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School in Setauket, has helped raise thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society and to fund a scholarship for graduates of Ward Melville High School. He is pictured holding the check. Credit: Three Village Central School District

A student at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School in Setauket has raised thousands of dollars for cancer awareness and district graduates in his mother's memory.

Joseph Nizza, a ninth-grader, raised roughly $10,000 last school year by soliciting donations during his school's spring concerts and through the sale of World's Finest Chocolate bars.

A majority of the funds went to a new scholarship in his mother's name that will be given annually to a graduating female pursuing a career in medicine from Ward Melville High School, while the rest went to the American Cancer Society.

Nizza's mother, Natalie, died this year at the age of 45 after an 80-day battle with a rare type of mesothelioma. Before her death, she had worked as a doctor of internal medicine at Harbor View Medical Services in Port Jefferson.

"My mom was such a benevolent person; I knew I had to do something," said Nizza, 14, noting his original goal was only $1,500. "I want to thank the community for helping me to kill a disease that's killed so many people."

Nizza is president of his school's National Junior Honor Society, a member of the Key Club, and is active in the wind ensemble, jazz band, chamber choir and the Vocal Vikings performance group. He is also a cantor in the choir at St. James Church. 

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