Perino has been named one of 16,000 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. He now has an opportunity to advance to the finalist level. All National Merit scholarships — more than $32 million worth — will be awarded to the group of finalists.
About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2014 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors.
“It’s an honor and a weight off of my shoulders,” Perino said. “It’s a big thing for me, certainly, considering I’ll have four years of medical school.”
Perino is working toward an impressive high school resume: besides being a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, he’s taking four advanced-placement classes this year and is heavily involved in community service.
“He is an intuitive young man with an analytical mind,” said Maryjane Utley, Perino’s AP Chemistry teacher and chairwoman of the science department. “He tackles new challenges openly and fearlessly. He is also very modest and soft-spoken, yet lets his voice be heard when appropriate.”
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism, named Perino one of the state’s top youth volunteers of 2014.
Perino co-founded the initiative “Turn Grease Into Fuel,” or TGIF, that collects thousands of gallons of used cooking oil a month from 132 restaurants in three states and numerous public receptacles, then converts it to a biofuel to heat the homes of families in need.
Over the past five years, TGIF been able to donate more than $100,000 worth of biofuel to keep more than 200 families warm through the winters. In addition, the project has prevented more than 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
“I’ve been doing community service since the fifth grade, and I really enjoy it,” Perino said. “It’s nice to help other people who aren’t as fortunate.”
To become a National Merit Scholarship finalist, a semifinalist must have “an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and submit a detailed scholarship application, among others.”
Theodore Capaldi was the last Merit Scholar finalist from Westerly High. Capaldi earned the distinction in 2009.