A devoted volunteer in his spare time serving those in need, 19-year-old Kraig Puccia was honored to receive the 2019 Life of Significance Award on May 31 for his outstanding contributions to the community and beyond.
Puccia, who lives in Whitestone and is a sophomore at Fordham University in the Bronx studying history and Italian studies, was announced as the fifth annual Life of Significance Award winner by The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. As one of three finalists selected from a nationwide field of nominees, Puccia’s recognition was unveiled during the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC).
The Life of Significance Award is given annually to a collegiate rugby player, male or female, participating in the CRC, which took place at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA, from May 31 through June 2.
“When I found out there were 20 nominees and I started to learn about the award I just became very humbled by the whole experience because a lot of the things I’ve done in the past and now I don’t really do out of self-interest,” said Puccia. “I try to do it because I enjoy doing work for others and I don’t seek any award. When I was told that I was a finalist and won, I was very grateful and appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had for outreach.”
Puccia’s love for volunteer service began in high school, he said, where he was taught values such as selflessness, self-service and commitment.
“It kind of ties in with my educational background. I went to a Jesuit high school and a Jesuit university,” said Puccia. “I was put into an environment where there are a lot of opportunities and places where you could find service whether it’s locally or around the nation. In high school, I did a lot of similar service projects and research in social justice and now as a university student, I take proactive steps to get involved in legal offices and studying problems in parts of the nation.”
Puccia has traveled to Bethel, Alaska, as a member of Fordham’s GO! (Global Outreach) program, where he was a volunteer at the Tundra Women’s Coalition. The organization works to protect women in the community from their partners during alcohol or drug-induced episodes that threaten their safety.
In 2018, he also volunteered at the Domestic Violence Bureau at the Queens District Attorney’s Office in Kew Gardens, where he worked with an assistant district attorney helping with an early voluntary discovery collecting documents in preparation for a domestic violence case.
“I was involved with interviewing police officers, victims of domestic violence, getting corroborated statements signed, and compiling evidence and organizing them in a case file,” said Puccia.
This summer, Puccia is volunteering at the Veterans Advocacy Project through the Urban Justice Center performing pro-bono work for neglected veterans throughout New York City.
“Kraig is an exceptional young man who has already done so much good for the world,” said Fordham Men’s Rugby Head Coach Andrew Gheraldi, who nominated Puccia for the award. “As a man for others, Kraig is a testament to the Jesuit ideals of our university. We are proud to have him as part of our rugby program at Fordham and look forward to his continued growth both on and off the pitch.”
Puccia now joins an elite class of previous Life of Significance winners from Harvard University, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the University of Michigan.
For his achievement, Penn Mutual will donate $5,000 to Tundra Women’s Coalition, the charity of Puccia’s choice. His rugby team will also be gifted with $1,000 worth of Rhino Rugby equipment and gear.
Eileen McDonnell, a chairman and CEO of Penn Mutual, said Puccia’s history of service and his future goals epitomize not only what the Life of Significance Award stands for, but also the values instilled throughout Penn Mutual.
“Kraig’s commitment and dedication to his community and beyond is a true reflection of his character,” said McDonnell. “His selflessness and passion to serve those in need make Penn Mutual proud to present him with the 2019 Life of Significance Award.”