Salvatore “Sal” Cocchiaro is a machine.
The 17-year-old senior at St. Francis Preparatory School (SFP) has taken eight Advanced Placement courses throughout his high school career, putting him at least a full semester ahead of the game before he even gets to college.
The Bayside resident also has more honor society memberships than most. He has two part-time jobs and several volunteer gigs. He is currently studying childhood obesity as part of the Science Research Program in his school in hopes of finding new ways to combat the global epidemic. He’s also at the top of his class, so not only does he have the time to do it all, but the skill to pull it off expertly.
He has a schedule that rivals people far older than him, and yet somehow he still finds time for video games, pickup football, movie nights, Mets games and hangouts with his friends.
Cocchiaro said his academic prowess comes naturally. For him, however, maintaining that excellence comes from being well rounded. He places just as much significance on achieving peace of mind through relaxation.
“I refuse to go to bed feeling upset by my homework,” he said, adding that even if his studies keep him up until 2 a.m., he always makes time for a half-hour of television or videogames afterward in order to unwind.
“It’s important to take care of myself as much as my studies.”
He also said remaining social was an important aspect to this balance.
“I’d rather stay up late and finish homework [on weeknights] and be able to go out on weekends. People so often neglect themselves for their work, and that’s never a good thing. By exercising, keeping myself satisfied and enjoying my days as much as possible, the work isn’t a burden. I allow myself to take in all in stride.”
When Cocchiaro speaks of his activities, he does so with excitement and pride.
Cocchiaro’s scholastic abilities shone throughout his early childhood as well, even garnering him acceptance to Manhattan’s esteemed Regis High School. After careful consideration, he ended up turning it down.
“I love Prep,” he said simply. “All my friends are here, my family’s here. I really found a balance between my academic, social and physical life.”
On the weekends, Cocchiaro works as a sales associate at FYE in The Bay Terrace shopping center and as a captain and waiter with his father at Riccardo’s By the Bridge.
Like school, he appreciates his part-time jobs for the learning experiences they provide. Being a captain at Riccardo’s, he said, allows him to lead, while FYE teaches him to be a team player.
“It’s good to lead and take orders,” he said, “because you’re never going to be a big shot 100 percent of the time. There will always be someone above you and there will always be someone beside you.”
As for the future, Cocchiaro said he wants to study English and economics at college. He would eventually like to pursue a career in sports management, a passion he currently nurtures through his adoration of the Mets and the Jets, along with participating in the Fantasy Sports Club at school, which he founded two years ago.
Vassar College, Fordham University, Princeton and Columbia are all at the top of his college list, he said, adding, “In life, the key is to never give up in what you believe. I would rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t tried to do. In life, you get what you give. I’ll make who I am by myself.”