Topsail High School’s Michael Castoro was honored as the “Student Fundraiser of the Year” at the Association of Fundraising Professionals North Carolina, Cape Fear Region Chapter’s annual National Philanthropy Day celebration on November 8. Castoro was honored for his dedication to philanthropy and the Performing Arts Department at Topsail High School.
“Michael spearheaded fundraising efforts to replace the sound equipment for the Performing Arts. The improvements to the sound equipment will enhance many future performances put on by the chorus, band and drama,” said Melanie Gatton of Serene Ambitions, LLC in Hampstead. Serene Ambitions collaborates with nonprofits on community programs and events. As part of the planning committee for National Philanthropy Day, Gatton sought nominations from Hampstead. “We have a lot of people in our community doing a lot of good things. It was great to find some representation from Hampstead for this huge event. I was thrilled when Michael was honored as Student Fundraiser of the Year. He’s a real go-getter, and all his hard work improves our community. He really deserved it and everyone was incredibly impressed with him. Boards and directors were recruiting him during the event!”
Living in a rural community that has no local funds allocated to the robotics club or the electric vehicle class, Castoro learned early that fundraising was a must in order for these programs to exist. As part of his latest venture, Castoro set a fundraising goal of $5,000 that would be used to purchase sound equipment for the performing arts department at Topsail High School. During the month of August he met with teachers, principals and advisors to fill out the paper work necessary to accomplish this goal. So far the funds raised are more than $5,000.
Castoro loves music and is greatly disappointed when budget cuts are made to the performing arts. He believes that this is an important part of the education process.
“The most interesting part of what makes Michael so unique is his general concern for others, said Gatton. “He is not part of the drama, chorus or band departments. He is doing this fundraising purely because he attended the Grease performance last year, and the sound equipment was malfunctioning. He took it upon himself to find out what equipment was needed, scouted out fundraising donations and assembled a raffle ticket fundraiser. All of the proceeds will go directly to THS Performing Arts.”
He not only met with business owners to get raffle prizes and gift cards donated, he also solicited sponsorships from nonprofit organizations.
“He was most moved by the generosity of the Hampstead Women’s Club,” said Gatton. “This nonprofit donates thousands of dollars to all of our local schools each year. As he accepted their donation he made a speech and it was at that moment that he knew philanthropy was going to be a large part of his life.”
The fundraiser is part of Michael’s senior project, and his dedication to fundraising for the performing arts has become a partnership with more than 50 students within the school.
“It feels amazing to see something you’ve worked so hard to organize come together well, and it was a great cause so that in itself really makes me feel accomplished, said Castoro. The Topsail Advertiser asked him what advice he would give others like him who are interested in pursuing a good cause and how one might begin the process, and he said, “…make sure you are inspired and driven by it so you have the motivation to follow through completely. To begin this process, it is important to first talk with the individuals in charge of the organization you want to help; you have to get to know the people you’re fundraising for, and they would love to know you!”
At the moment Castoro is dedicating his time to teach other students to play the guitar. He is also the president of DECA.
When asked about his next philanthropic endeavor, Castoro said it “involves raising funds for my school’s DECA chapter. DECA is a marketing club and I am the president of our chapter this year. In DECA, we participate in a state level competition, and I would like to organize enough fundraisers to ensure that all of our members can afford to go to the state level.”
Castoro plans to attend UNC Chapel Hill to pursue a business degree.
“Hopefully through my business endeavors I can continue to give back to my community,” he said. “I am very excited that my fundraiser was so successful, and I hope that my contribution can help make other peoples’ lives easier. I truly believe giving to others is one of the greatest joys in life.”
Toni Castoro and Melanie Gatton of Serene
Ambitions, LLC contributed to this story