By PETE FONTAINE
It was almost a decade ago when Robert V. Russo first took part in the annual Honors Night scholarship presentations inside Johnston High School’s auditorium.
The prominent Providence-based attorney, who doubles as president of the Johnston Town Council, also began what has become a terrific tradition that helps graduating seniors pursue a college degree at the institution of their choice.
However, Russo – as well as other college scholarship presenters and school officials – were prevented from attending that highly popular JHS program this year when all school classes and events were canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.
“I have always been so grateful for the experience I had at Johnston High School and the educational opportunities I had at Bryant College and the University of Baltimore Law School,” Russo said the other afternoon. “I wanted to give back to students that are motivated to fertilize their minds.”
Thus, the annual Robert V. Russo Law Office Scholarship was established and continues to help JHS graduates fund their post-secondary education.
Moreover, Russo – like other people who look forward to the annual awards night – was disappointed when this year’s program was canceled.
So, with help from his brother Greg Russo, who wears many hats at JHS and chairs the school’s Chemistry Department, Russo held a presidential program of sorts to present Demetri Demetropoulos with the 2020 scholarship.
“This is kind of neat,” Greg Russo mused as his brother handed Demetropoulos an envelope that contained a check for the scholarship. “Council president and class of 2020 president, that’s great stuff!”
And as Robert Russo told Demetropoulos: “I was born and raised in Johnston and have a deep commitment to the community both personally and as an elected official. My family has been providing scholarships on behalf of my parents for 25 years. Our children have a lot of challenges ahead of them in this fragile world. Any help they can get will help.”
For Demetropoulos – who served as his class’s president for three years and as Greg Russo related “did an excellent job and is the type of individual that gets along with everyone and treats all with respect” – he’ll use the Russo Scholarship to pursue a degree and career at Johnson & Wales University, where he’ll major in fashion merchandising and retail.
From 2016 to 2020, Demetropoulos was highly active at JHS, as he participated in football and lacrosse while earning the prestigious membership into the National Honor Society. He also played key roles in the annual Homecoming Float Competition, film club, art club and social committee. While taking part in those various activities and holding down a part-time job at Boneheads Wing Bar and Grill, he complied a 3.5 GPA.
“I tried my best to find success anywhere I could,” Demetropoulos offered, to which Greg Russo wanted it known: “He led by example. My brother’s scholarship focuses on individuals that display leadership and character; Demetri just stood out as an individual that possessed the traits Bob admires and has been awarding to JHS grads for the past nine years.”
Likewise, the Russos have been awarding the Dr. Vito and Julia Russo Memorial Scholarship, in memory of their late father and mother, since 1994.