John Cerrone's father never went to college. After emigrating from Italy in 1920 at 16, Cerrone's father toiled for 45 years at the Syracuse China factory. He worked only manual labor, but he was sure to teach his son the importance of education. Cerrone is reminded of his father each time he awards a scholarship to a Liverpool High School senior as the president of the Dollars for Scholars program.
Dollars for Scholars, started in Liverpool in 1985, gives money to Liverpool High School seniors who are going to college after graduation. Under Cerrone's leadership, in June 2006, the program gave away its one millionth dollar.
"My father always told me, 'I don't care what you do or what course you follow, you've got to get an education.' That's part of the reason why I wanted to get involved in Dollars for Scholars," Cerrone said. "You get to a point when you've got to give back."
With his father's encouragement, Cerrone became the first member of his family to earn a college degree when he graduated from Le Moyne College in 1969.
Cerrone, 59, was born in Syracuse and moved to Liverpool in 1973 with his wife, Suzanne, whom he met in junior high school. Cerrone and his wife raised three children in their house on McArdell Street. They watched as all three graduated from Liverpool High School and went on to college.
When his second daughter was a senior at Liverpool High School in 1994, a friend of Cerrone's asked him to attend a meeting of the Dollars for Scholars board. The organization has been Cerrone's passion ever since.
A record-breaking passion
In his third year as president, Cerrone said he "oversees every element of the program." The scholarships are underwritten by donations from residents, businesses and Liverpool High School parents. Some families have set up separate scholarships, mostly to remember loved ones.