Dominic Cerrito started the Association for Constitutional Awareness last year to spread awareness of the Constitution through scholarships for students.
There were no academic requirements, only that entrants submit a video of themselves reading the Constitution in its entirety.
“To (students), these are just these ancient documents but once they read them, they feel empowered,” Cerrito said. “When I see (how the Constitution and Bill of Rights protects people) in the courtroom. I can understand why they feel like that.”
The association distributed $150 scholarships to about a dozen students across five high schools last year. This year, it will sponsor a wine and cheese fundraiser at the Historical Society of Haddonfield Greenfield Hall. The April 30 event will serve as an introduction to the association and proceeds will fund more scholarships.
Depending on the amount raised, Cerrito hopes to increase each scholarship’s amount to $200 this year. The awards are offered to students at Audubon, Haddon Heights and Haddonfield Memorial high schools, and Penns Grove and Woodstown high schools in Salem County. The association will accept scholarship applications from students outside those districts as well.
The organization’s creation was inspired by Cerrito’s time in law school, when he found out that it was not a requirement to read the Constitution in his Constitutional law class.
“It kind of sparked my interest,” he recalled. “If law students weren’t reading it, how many people outside of the profession are reading it? … Once I read it, I understood that if you work hard, you’re able to develop the life you want to live and the careers that you want.”
In his job as a clerk, Cerrito sees how the Constitution and the law protect people every day.
“All these decisions are made with those documents (Constitution, Bill of Rights) in mind, and when these decisions are made, in my opinion, they have to have our best interests in mind,” he explained.
For those interested in learning more after reading the Constitution, Cerrito recommends looking at case law, which comes from court decisions available to the public.
Hours for the wine and cheese fundraiser are 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for one and $50 for two. To learn more or buy tickets, visit www.youraca.org/tickets.