Students win scholarships based on their academic standing, extracurricular activities and community service. Last June, Dollars for Scholars gave away $60,000 in 144 scholarships to 144 Liverpool High School seniors. Last year's amount was the second highest ever given out. Cerrone hopes to give away even more money this June.
The program has already broken its own record this year when it raised $22,500 from its annual phone-a-thon, held on two Sundays in March.
While the program has given away tens of thousands of dollars each spring for the last few years, it has not always been this way.
In 1999, when Pat Mahardy was a Liverpool High School senior and a Dollars for Scholars award winner, he said the group awarded only about $10,000. Mahardy, now a Dollars for Scholars board member, credits the program's growth to the energy Cerrone has brought as president. Also, more people know about the program because of its annual fundraisers, he said.
Mahardy is not alone in crediting Cerrone. Nick Pallotta, the Dollars for Scholars' treasurer and director of the career center at Liverpool High School, also praised Cerrone for his enthusiasm.
"He's amazing," Pallotta said. "He's really turned Dollars for Scholars into the avenue it should be. He's made it stronger and stronger every year. It's his passion."
Rick Fensterer, a Liverpool High School alum and a Dollars for Scholars board member, said Cerrone helps the board to work as a true team.
"John provides great leadership and focus," Fensterer said.
Cerrone bats away the praise. Ask him and he'll tell you Dollars for Scholars succeeds because of the board.
"Whenever I ask for volunteers for an event, hands fly into the air," he said.
No matter who is right, Cerrone and his board have pushed to get the Dollars for Scholars name in front of the community. They've done this by holding an annual bowl-a-thon and golf tournament, as well as the yearly phone-a-thon. These events have increased the publicity Dollars for Scholars has received. Word of the program has traveled around the community.