Young People of Distinction Humanitarian Award





Melissa Ann Maria Pettignano, 26, is the proud owner, founder and CEO of MPettignano Enterprises, LLC. She is a professional music artist, songwriter, author, entrepreneur, and inspirational speaker.  Melissa has won many awards for both the literary and entertainment industry.

Melissa was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, where she lived until age 7, and then moved to Secaucus, New Jersey, six months later. At the age of seven, Melissa started performing.  She would perform in school, other schools, contests, talents shows, family functions, events, and, of course the #1 place, The Church of the Lord, singing Gospel music.

Melissa went to Clarendon School until sixth grade, when she graduated. After that, she attended Secaucus Middle School for two years (seventh and eighth grade). During this time, in 2003, Melissa won for “Outstanding Soloist” at the Sixth Flags Great Adventure Competition.  Her school chorus won that year too.  After passing eighth grade, she graduated.

For the first two years of her high school education, Melissa attended Secaucus High School, ninth and tenth grade.  She was a lead actress in one of the high school plays, entitled: Mandate of Murder, where she played the character Dolores.  Melissa decided after tenth grade that it was time for her to pursue her music, writing and modeling, in full throttle.  For the last remaining two years, Melissa was home schooled by the prestigious The Morning Star Academy.  During that time, she signed on with IMTS- Industry Model and Talent Studios, at the age of eighteen.  She also was an extra in the Spider Man 3 movie.

Melissa says, “I have done everything any young girl my age would want to pursue. I experienced many wonderful things, went to prom, and learned a lot from my experiences.  I didn’t have it easy when I was younger.  I didn’t have it hard either, but I’ve been through a lot since then.  My faith has and always will be a part of me, and it has truly helped me with a lot.  If anything, faith is essential to really bring you to your roots.  I am truly blessed, and I thank Lord Jesus, every day, as I share the Great News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

One of the biggest losses Melissa has had to deal with was losing her aunt, Arlene T. Babakitis on September 11, 2001.  Melissa has shown her love and support through writing and music.  That day was a day no one will ever forget.  Melissa prays for everyone, and her love is with them all.  Melissa started writing when she was six years old.  She started writing at six in-a-half “Suzanne Lantana” and has been hooked since.

This book, a collection of short stories, is something Melissa feels many young girls and even some boys can relate to; according to Melissa, many pre-teens and teenagers have so much to say and sometimes don’t get the chance to say it.  These stories will make many pre-teens and teenagers say, as they read, “I know what she went through“, “I know of a friend who is going through the same thing” or, “I went to a party just like that,” or “my school does the same thing.”  By this, they can gain some sense of certain situations and relate or learn from it.

Melissa is a woman who loves to give back to her community and help others around the world.  She is very active in helping the 9-11 Community.  Melissa frequents museums and helps the youth understand what that day of “911” was like and gives them insight on how they too can overcome anything they face, especially tragedy. Not just to the youth, but all ages.

On September 11, 2010, for the nine-year anniversary at Ground Zero, Melissa spoke the names of those who passed on 9-11.  She said her aunt’s name and a special message.  That was live coverage presented nationally and internationally.

Fox News interviewed both, Melissa and her mother, Evelyn Pettignano, for their Fox News Documentary in regards to the 10 year anniversary of September 11, 2001 for Bill O’Reilly’s, What’s Happening Now.

Melissa and her mother shot a documentary film in New York City, entitled, Forever Changed 911 in Remembrance, in regards to 9-11 for ACLJ- American Center for Law and Justice.

Points of Light, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the 911 community invited Melissa and her family to Washington D.C. to attend a VIP private reception/ceremony and Flag Stitching event on July 16th 2011.  Melissa and her family stitched and signed The 911 National Flag that been damaged in the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center, nearly a decade ago.

Melissa was a part of the “I WILL” public service campaign, which started August 11, 2011 and ran through September 11, 2011 that reached and inspired and continues to reach and inspire millions to participate and post tributes in regards to the 911 Day of Observance.  Melissa, along with other family members, and stars within the entertainment industry, and many others was a part of the 15 MILLION DOLLAR CAMPAIGN (

On September 4, 2011, The Star Ledger interviewed Melissa.  This was a September 11, 2011 Special Edition piece.

Melissa and her mother Mrs. Pettignano, and dear family friend and survivor of the 911 attacks on American soil, Cecilia Lillo were featured guests on RAI TV.  Remembering and reflecting September 11, 2001 attacks and much more, for the Ten Year Anniversary with Simona Decena, the Barbara Walters of Italy.

Melissa is active in promoting higher education for all.  On June 20, 2013, Melissa and her family joined Points of Light in Washington D.C. to attend the America’s Sunday Supper with educational activist and nine-time Grammy Award winner, John Legend.  The elaborate affair converged to focus on and discuss ways in which we as a community can come together to give our youth better educational opportunities.  America’s Sunday Supper is a signature program by Points of Light, and sponsored by Target, along with other leading sponsors and leadership committee.  This incredible program is inspired by Dr. King’s vision for all people of all diverse backgrounds to come together in building mutual understanding through interaction and connection on personal levels that increase mutual understanding to new heights.

Melissa is active in helping those in need of hair.  On July 10, 2013, Melissa donated 8inches of her hair to an organization entitled: Children with Hair Loss, to help a young child in need of hair.

Melissa is active in helping the homeless.  November is National Homeless Youth Awareness month.  Melissa was asked by an organization entitled HomeAid to help raise awareness for the youth and for all ages.  She shot a video for National Homeless Youth Awareness to help educate others about our brothers and sisters being homeless in the United States and around the world.

Melissa is active in helping the persecuted Christians, which includes former Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus who have come to Christianity from all walks of life.  She donates funds to, and is actively involved with helping, Open Doors; The Voice of Martyrs; Persecution International Christian Concern, and Gospel for Asia.

Melissa is active with her Catholic Church, and active in donating clothes to Africa.

In her hometown community, Melissa and her family are active in donating time and money to worthy causes and fundraisers.  They recently worked closely with Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and the community to help fire victims who lost their homes, as well as donated cases of water for Hurricane Katrina victims at Secaucus High School.

Melissa is also active in helping those affected by cancer and other illnesses.  In 2010, Melissa’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, which spread to her liver.  Mrs. Pettignano had two major surgeries in a period of seven months.  Of the crisis, Melissa states, “Through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and prayers of our family and friends, my mother is cancer free!  Hallelujah!”

Making Changes