The Bronx’s Miss Columbus has a story to tell.
Giuliana Izzo, an aspiring criminal justice lawyer from Belmont and this year’s winner of the scholarship sponsored by the Generoso Pope Foundation, has not let adversity get her down.
She dealt with the passing of her father in 2009 with grace and courage, going on to earn a 4.0 grade point average into her senior year at Maria Regina High School while keeping a full roster of extracurricular activities, including playing on the school’s basketball team.
She was crowned at the Bronx Columbus Day Parade Dinner on Sunday, Sept. 22 after being chosen by a panel of teachers who narrowed down a large number of applications to three semi-finalists.
The event was a prelude to the Sunday, Oct. 13 Bronx Columbus Day Parade in Morris Park.
Izzo said she was encouraged to apply for the scholarship by a school guidance counselor.
“When they called me the day after the interview and congratulated me on winning the scholarship, I was told that one of the reasons that I won is because when I grow up I want to start my own scholarship for Italian-American students,” she said. “There are not a lot of scholarship opportunities for us.”
Bronx Columbus Parade organizer/scholarship organizer Tony Signorile said Izzo’s dinner speech was touching.
Giuliana said that the loss of her father Vincenzo, the family’s breadwinner, has been a difficult time for her mother Lina, as well as her sister Marialena. But she often thinks of her father and it has brought her inspiration.
Her family has known hardship before, with their stories of overcoming adversity only adding to her appreciation of her heritage.
Her grandmother, Lina, came to America in 1959 on a ship when she was six months pregnant with her mother, leaving her family behind because her husband could only find work in the United States. Because her grandmother could not speak English, she was often shunned by fellow Italian-Americans.
Izzo is a member of the National Honor Society, Cooking Club (baking is one of her hobbies), and National Art Honor Society at Maria Regina. She coaches youth basketball at Villa Maria Academy, where she went to grammar school.
She said that living in the Bronx’s Little Italy’s keeps her in touch with her roots, as do the traditional Sunday dinners that have often been an important part of Italian-American life.
“I just love to hear the Italian language every day where I live on Arthur Avenue, the Bronx’s Little Italy,” she said, adding “family is a big part of my heritage.”
The scholarship will prove especially useful since money has been tight since her father passed away, she said.
She plans on traveling to Italy next year and hopes that the experience will deepen her appreciation of her Italian heritage. She also hopes to win a basketball scholarship to college.
“I have a number of schools looking at me for basketball,” she said, adding that some possibilities for college include Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, Fordham University and New York University.