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Florida college student wins BNY Mellon competition, donates $10,000 to Gift of Life Marrow Registry

Nov 14, 2023 by Gift of Life Volunteer Story

Dante Watson II has a special relationship with Gift of Life Marrow Registry.  His father, whom he is named for, is a (newly retired) Federal Express driver, and Gift of Life’s headquarters was on his route in its previous location at 800 Yamato Road.  Gift of Life receives thousands of Fed Ex packages a year containing swab kits submitted by both volunteers and Campus Ambassadors after they have completed a donor drive. 

Dante Watson II (r) with his father Dante Watson Sr. at his graduation. Dante II recently won a sustainability competition at Bank of New York Mellon, and donated the $10,000 prize to Gift of Life Marrow Registry. Dad started him on a life of community service, and introduced him to Gift of Life when he was a high school student.

Dante Sr., who has a long history of community service, learned that thanks to those packages he was delivering, the lives of blood cancer patients would be saved. Sharing that information at home, he got his son started on his Gift of Life journey.

“My dad always was committed to giving back to the community as a long-time employee of FedEx,” said Dante. “From the Dolphin's Cycling Challenge to the Bike MS series, he always kept my brother and me involved in volunteering events. When I was in high school, he assisted me in my endeavors to bring the Gift of Life Marrow Registry to my school and it was a success.”

Dante continued that success at Broward Community College, where he also ran successful recruitment drives. From there, he transferred to the University of Florida (UF), where he is majoring in Economics and History, with a certification in Data Analytics.

“When I was admitted to UF, I joined their already established Gift of Life team and continued to bring new volunteers to the registry,” said Dante. The organization has a strong presence on the UF campus, with Campus Ambassadors running a highly successful recruitment program for nearly 10 years.

In 2023, Dante interned with the Bank of New York Mellon, where he participated in their “Business Case for Good” competition. Sixty-five teams with over 250 participants presented projects designed to aid BNY Mellon to deliver results more effectively for three of the United Nations sustainability goals: Quality Education, Reduce Inequality and Climate Action.  The winning team received a $10,000 grant to donate to an approved charity of choice.

In the final round, the top five teams picked by 30 proposal reviewers traveled to New York to present their projects to BNY Mellon CPO Jolen Anderson, CFO Dermot McDonogh, CEO of Dreyfus Stephanie Pierce and the  United Nations Foundation Senior VP Peter Yeo. Three of the top five teams were from New York, one team from Pittsburgh and one from Lake Mary, Fla.

In August  the five teams delivered their presentation to the panel in front of a live audience of over 50 people, plus those viewing online. The judges were then tasked with picking one winning team who would then donate the winning grant to an approved charity.

The team from Lake Mary, made up of Dante Watson II, Blake Gardner, Robert (Tyler) Lee and Jonathan Zinn was picked as the winning team with their initiative, "Lake Mary: Expanding Our Horizons." Their project proposes multiple actions to increase sustainability, reduce environmental impact and cut costs.

Dante (front row, right) and his winning team with the competition judges.

Dante and his winning team chose Gift of Life Marrow Registry as their charity of choice to receive the $10,000 contribution.

“Knowing that my efforts could be part of the reason that a person has another chance at life is why I will always support the registry,” said Dante. “I have a utilitarian mindset - the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people."


Thank you, Dante, for your ongoing support of Gift of Life Marrow Registry – we can’t wait to see what you do next! Also, many thanks to your father for his service to us, we wish him a happy and productive retirement.