If a particular bit of information contained within a 2010 survey from The Montpelier Foundation is true, that only 28 percent of Americans have read the Constitution in its entirety, Dominic Cerrito has come up with a novel solution to encourage learning about one of the country’s founding documents.
Cerrito, who grew up in several towns in Camden and Salem counties, wanted to find a way to give back to communities that incorporated some connection to American history. The graduate of Audubon High School and Rutgers-Camden law school simply wants high-school seniors to read the Constitution, then provide audio or video proof of doing so.
The end result? A $150 scholarship, first awarded this academic year, to be used in whatever way impending graduates wish.
“I never enjoyed reading, but fell in love with the law after reading our founding documents,” said Cerrito, who grew up in a traditional blue collar, two income household. This inspired me to go to college to obtain my law degree.
“My dad was a union mason, mom is a teacher,” Cerrito added. “He always advised me to look for a career that doesn’t beat you up as much. But I didn’t know what I really wanted to do.”
Cerrito said the light bulb finally went on as he tried to read everything he could about the men who shaped America in the late 18th century. The more he devoured, the more he realized what he was reading sounded like how he viewed the world. That led to a deeper look into the law, and studying what was laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
“It made me feel like I could accomplish what I wanted. (The Constitution) allows us to carve out our own lives,” Cerrito added.
As for the most salient and recent reason Cerrito decided to create the scholarship, credit that old time saver, the simple Google search.
“Something I found concerning after three years of law school was, in Constitutional law, there’s a reading list but no guarantees anyone is actually reading the Constitution,” he noted. “How many others outside the profession even read it? It’s less than 5,000 words, equivalent to a 17 page novel.”
Anyone who has an interest in early American history and a zeal to learn about the founding documents can apply for the scholarship. Cerrito doesn’t expect to favor anyone because of their grades or extracurricular activities.
At the time of his conversation with the Sun, Cerrito said seven students had received the scholarship, which is self-funded for now. He anticipated 15 scholarships will be awarded per year, three each at Haddonfield Memorial High School, Haddon Heights High School, Woodstown High School, Penns Grove High School and Cerrito’s alma mater.
At Haddonfield, head tennis coach and school counselor Jeff Holman is in charge of letting seniors know about the scholarship.
“Each of these students will read the entire Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” Cerrito noted. “It takes them about 35 minutes to read it, and the videos that they submit of themselves reading it is such an incredible thing to see.”
For more information about the Montpelier Foundation’s surveys, visit: https://tinyurl.com/6arntsut.
Cerrito can be contacted at: email@example.com.