Cento Amici (100 Friends) was founded 30 years ago by Thomas Zito, executive director of the Bayonne Housing Authority, and Robert Zito, then an executive at the New York Stock Exchange. The two had been members of Tiro a Segno, a New York organization that was both a private dinner club and a nonprofit that raised money for scholarships. With other members of Tiro a Segno who lived in New Jersey, the group formed a similar group to support education in New Jersey.
Cento Amici is a community-based member organization dedicated to providing need-based scholarship assistance to qualified students in New Jersey. Our mission is to enhance the educational opportunities for those who need it most and who are most underserved by existing need-based programs.
Our goals do not waver. We strive to continue to attract new members, who are also supportive of providing educational opportunities for young students who benefit from our help.
Cento Amici provides scholarship support to St. Peter’s Prep, Roselle Catholic, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Union County College, Raritan Valley Community College, St. Benedict’s Prep, Montclair State University and, most recently, Immaculate Conception High School.
Last year, we provided scholarship contributions to more than 50 students, as selected by their schools. In the past year, the organization has created a new form of membership, encouraging previous scholarship recipients to join and continue the networking that was available to them while in their schools.
We traditionally have raised money through two events — a golf outing and an annual dinner and auction — as well as through individual and corporate contributions.
Mostly individuals who have benefited from the opportunities created by a sound education and who want to give back, but also companies (such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Power Survey, Zito Partners, Munidex and others) that support education.
Former members and executives of the New York Stock Exchange and other Wall Street firms, as well as members of the organization have been the biggest supporters. Our membership list is public. We believe in complete transparency.
Our spring dinner, when we meet our scholarship recipients, is the highlight of the year. The opportunity to meet these young men and women, instead of simply “mailing a check” to a school, provides an emotional attachment that we know our members feel strongly about. And the students seem to enjoy the opportunity, as well, as they learn to network and establish contacts at a fairly young age.
Serving: All of New Jersey
Key members: Robert Zito, Bob DeFillippo, Col. Jack Jacobs (Medal of Honor recipient), Dr. James Chimenti, Joseph Venturini, Gary Battaglia