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Student named Coca-Cola New Century Scholar
April 2, 2014
Anthony Pierno said that before moving to Rhode Island five years ago, he had spent most of his life in Washington, D.C., growing up feeling the energy and influence of government and law – the industry where he now hopes to land. In April, the Phi Theta Kappa honors student will have somewhat of a homecoming as he travels back down to the District to receive recognition as a 2014 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar.
"I'm ecstatic," said Pierno. "Financially, the award means a lot to me, but I look at it more as a lifetime achievement – something that I know I received because of all the hard work that I put in."
Pierno applied for the award through PTK, which he joined after his first semester at the college. Only one student per state was selected out of more than 1,700 applications for the $2,000 scholarship. He credits PTK with "opening up the world to him," both by giving him access to scholarship opportunities as well a "community of scholars" with which to learn and grow.
"This is a community of people I can relate to and talk with; people who share similar experiences, hopes and dreams. People always say it's not what you know, but who you know, and through PTK, I've met a lot of great individuals, advisor Laurie Sherman being one of them."
Sherman, adviser to the club, praised Pierno as a model student. "He is incredibly enthusiastic, outgoing and optimistic ... I have no doubt he will accomplish whatever he sets his mind to."
Any student should be proud to be counted among the ranks of the honor's organization, but it's been a confidence-booster for Pierno. Brought back to Rhode Island to take care of his ailing grandmother, he said he felt unsure of his future and his direction.
"I wasn't sure how well I would do going back to school. Making the decision to go back after so many years away was honestly a little scary, and I wasn't sure what was going to happen or if it was going to make a difference in my life. But getting to know my teachers, getting to know the school – it's a great campus and everyone inspired me to do better," he said. "The support is overwhelming. They helped me see my own potential, which was something I hadn't seen in a while"
In particular, he said criminal justice and legal studies professor Sheryl MacDougall is his mentor in his program of study. Though Pierno initially enrolled in the college with the goal of becoming a paralegal, he is now looking to go on to earn his law degree, largely in part inspired by MacDougall's passion for the law.
"Just seeing all that she's accomplished in her own life, her law practice, the way she teaches and inspires people, you can get a sense of her love for the law, and it brings it out in me," he said.
Other than MacDougall and his academic inspirations, Pierno reported a more personal motivation to extend his education into legal studies: He wants to make a difference. Pierno is president of the Triangle Alliance at the college, and said he looks forward to the day when he can put his education to work by using the law to help promote civil rights and equality.
"The LGBT communities have made a lot of strides in the past few years alone. And we separate ourselves out as a community, but we're a nation, and all laws should apply equally to everyone," he said.
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