The Primavera Italian Language program brought 75 children a better understanding of the language and culture of Italy on shoestring budget this year.
The Saturday morning language and cultural training program, which holds classes for children in elementary and middle school, celebrated its success with a graduation ceremony at St. Benedict’s School on Saturday, February 5, after several grants from elected officials and cultural organizations made the program a possibility once again this year.
The children celebrated learning a foreign language with the program’s director Loretta Ziano, and their teachers, and received grab bags filled with gifts that they purchased with Euros, or Italian money, that they received for both attendance and performance in class.
Also participating in the ceremony were Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman James Vacca, as well as Villa Maria Academy principal Sr. Teresa Barton and St. Benedict’s pastor Father Stephen Norton.
“Programs like this one are important in a global economy because the kids are exposed to other languages and cultures,” Klein said. “By being exposed to other cultures, programs like this break can down barriers to learning about other people.”
The program showed remarkable diversity, Benedetto said, as he noted that it was not just Italian kids who were participating, but also children of other ethnic groups including Irish-American, German-American, African-American children who came from all over Throggs Neck and beyond.
As part of the graduation ceremony, there was a song, or canzone in Italian, led by three students, a presentation on Carnevale, which is an annual Venetian festival that coincides with Fat Tuesday, and a game in which students got to demonstrate their knowledge of Roman mythology and Italian culture before a crowd of more than 200 parents, teachers, family and friends.
The program was made possible by grants from Congressman Joseph Crowley, Klein, Benedetto, Vacca, and Bronx Council of the Arts. The fiscal conduit for the program, which has been in existence for years and which Ziano took over in 2002, is the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association.
While funding is always an issue with the program, the teachers commitment and the way learning a foreign language can help the young people become better at English language skills makes it all worth the effort, Andrew Chirico, WLCA board member said.
“It is not just about learning another language, but it is a good basis for learning English as well,” Chirico said. “People who are conversant in several languages tend to do well in high school and college, and here they are also learning about Italian culture as well.”
Ziano also offers an Italian language class for adults at the church’s convent, which is set to begin in April. The adult classes meet every Tuesday and Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call Ziano at (718) 863-2139.