The Primavera Italian Language and Culture Program is pushing forward against the odds, trying to stay in operation for another year – getting help from wherever they can find it. Liras, euros and dollars will all be graciously accepted.
The free, comprehensive Saturday-morning program has served the community for 35 years, teaching both the Italian language and Italian culture to students from public and private schools.
The program coordinator Loretta Zaino said that the program, a community tradition, is currently subsisting on funding secured by local elected officials, most notably Congressman Joseph Crowley, and Senator Jeff Klein, who just obtained a $5,000 grant for the program.
The 12-week learning experience runs from the fall to spring at St. Benedict’s School. The money Klein secured through Project Boost, an enrichment program for elementary and middle school students, will go a long way towards paying the costs of the program, said Zaino.
“Right now, we are working on a shoestring,” she said of the program.
“No one on the staff has gotten paid, and we have been working for six weeks. This $5,000 will help see us through the end of the program.”
She added: “I have to say Senator Klein always comes through for the program. It may be at the eleventh hour, but he always manages to come through and give the program money.”
“The Primavera Italian Lanauge and Culture Program is terrific, I go to the graduation in every year,” said Klein, adding that he turned to Project Boost after a funding source from last year, the Generoso Pope Foundation, could not provide a grant this year.
“It is always difficult, but I think it is well worth it,” added Klein. “I think it is important that people understand not just another language, but also another culture. I think that is what this program provides. It is not exclusively Italian-American, but any young person who is interested in learning Italian and the culture that goes with it.”
In the past, said Ziano, Councilman James Vacca was able to secure funding through Bronx Council on the Arts. And each year, Congressman Crowley provides the funding to pay for the start up costs, including books and supplies.
Priamvera holds a holiday party and also a large graduation ceremony each year, Zaino added.
But, more importantly, the educator says it fills a void in the Throggs Neck, Country Club and Pelham Bay communities, where most elementary and middle schools do not offer a language other than English.
This simple fact puts local students at a disadvantage when they reach high school and they must learn a language, said Zaino. The program gives students opportunities they might not otherwise have, and this can help them when they get to high school.