(Anthony Ucciferri, 2016 UMPS CARE All-Star College Scholarship recipient, 2021 graduate of Montclair State University, photo courtesy of Arianna Grainey)
Anthony shared his story at the 16th Annual UMPS CARE Charities Golf Classic in Phoenix, Arizona, in front of about 200 charity supporters. All of us at UMPS CARE are proud to have Anthony as part of our crew, and we are excited to see what his future holds. To date, the All-Star College Scholarship has awarded more than $282,500 to young adults like Anthony and has truly changed their lives.
Anthony Ucciferri remembers the exact moment his brother told him their father had died. Anthony, who was just 5 at the time, thought his brother was “messing with him,” that it was some kind of a joke.
The truth turned out to be very real, and very tragic. Their father, Robert, had been shot and killed the night before. The morning they learned of their new reality was none other than Easter. To this day, the crime remains unsolved.
“Before I knew it, everyone was in the living room, and we all just broke down,” said Anthony, now 24.
From that moment on, Anthony had to grow up fast. His mother was overwhelmed by the loss of her husband and the challenge of Anthony and his four older siblings. Later, she battled addiction and mental health issues.
When Anthony was about 8, he sold his toys so he could make sure his family had pizza for dinner. Later, he used money to buy a lawnmower so he could start a landscaping business to help make ends meet.
Anthony was later adopted by an aunt and uncle, and when Anthony was 16, his mom died of cancer. Anthony spent about three months taking care of his mom until her death.
Still, he was determined to pursue a college education. He paid for the cost of taking his SAT test, and walked about four miles to get to the testing site just to take the exam. He got into college, at Montclair State University in his home state of New Jersey, but had no idea how he was going to pay for tuition and housing. Thankfully, a social worker had heard of the UMPS CARE Charities All-Star College Scholarship, which was established specifically to support children adopted later in life. Anthony not only applied, but also was named the scholarship recipient.
He had no idea how much receiving this scholarship would mean to his future.
The UMPS CARE All-Star College Scholarship provides each recipient with $10,000 per year to help cover college expenses – $40,000 over four years – in addition to providing ongoing mentorship from the UMPS CARE community to help ensure long-term success. Major League Baseball Umpires and their family members take time to reach out to each recipient, sending text messages of support and care packages before finals and even meeting up for lunch or at a ballgame.
When Anthony first received the scholarship, he knew it would help him financially. (Tuition at Montclair State is about $13,000 for in-state residents, not including room and board). But the scholarship wound up being much more than a check deposit.
“I was just an 18-year-old kid, and I don’t know how I survived,” Anthony said. “During those first few months of college, I pretty much just ate spaghetti … spaghetti with ketchup … spaghetti with chili sauce. My siblings were my biggest support system, but really, I don’t know how I did it.”
A big reason for his success was that UMPS CARE stayed by him. Not only did the financial support from UMPS CARE help, but also having a team behind him providing emotional support and encouragement made a huge impact.
UMPS CARE invited him to see his beloved Philadelphia Phillies play a game one summer. Anthony had no idea that this event would be more than simply picking up tickets at the Will Call booth. He, along with a friend and his nephew, were shuttled to the umpires’ locker room, met with the Major League Baseball Umpires, and took photos in the dugout.
“It was a super powerful experience,” said Anthony, who met MLB Umpires Jordan Baker and Bruce Dreckman, along with Mike Everitt (now an MLB Umpire Supervisor) and former Call-Up Umpire Tom Woodring that day. “I got to meet some of the guys who really drive the organization, and they knew my story and talked with me for a bit before the game.”
Throughout his college journey, Anthony encountered several challenges, including losing his job and contracting COVID. When he needed to extend his college coursework a year, UMPS CARE was there to help him reach the finish line.
In his senior year, Anthony somehow juggled a full-time job at a marketing firm and took 18 credit hours of courses at night so he could graduate in May 2021. Uplifting messages and persistent reminders from UMPS CARE also motivated him.
And when he did graduate with a degree in finance and marketing, Anthony did so as a member of the Dean’s List.
“A couple of years ago, and really my last semester, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it,” Anthony said. I am super grateful for everything UMPS CARE has done to make sure I did make it.
“I went through a tough mental health period,” he added. “I was constantly busy, and it just felt good knowing someone was checking on me – making sure I was breathing. I kind of felt like I had a family member who was always there.”