A community program providing supplemental education in a foreign language to community children for decades will continue for another year.
The Primavera Italian Language Program, run every fall at St. Benedict’s School, has long taught Italian language and the culture of Italy through art, music and food to youngsters on Saturdays.
The program, originally founded 40 years ago as the Aurora Program, was in danger of closing its doors for good after two funding sources the program relies upon weren’t available to provide grants this year, said Loretta Zaino, program coordinator and teacher.
Congressman Joe Crowley and Senator Jeff Klein, who in recent years normally provided the vast majority of funding for the program, which is considered a community staple, were unable to fund the program this year after primary loses, said Zaino.
The program was saved after the intervention of the Sons of Italy’s Uguaglianza Northeast Bronx Lodge #83, which donated $5,200, said club member John Cerini, who helped bring Zaino and the lodge’s members together.
In addition, several club members, including Cerini, donated their own personal funds to underwrite the program in this transitional year, said Zaino.
“It is a free program, and the kids who attend on Saturdays really learn and get educational resources,” said Zaino, adding she is most grateful to the Sons of Italy and all those who donated for making this year’s program possible.
Zaino said that if the 11th hour funding hadn’t come through, she would have no choice but to shutter the program, which costs at least $6,000 per year to run. She believes she can accommodate 35 to 40 children this year.
“In the past we never had a problem because Congressman Crowley and Senator Jeff Klein were in office and we had the money we needed,” she said. “They are going to be sorely missed.”
She credits Cerini with taking the ‘bull by the horns’ when others could not come through with funding.
“I thought who better to help out with an Italian cultural program than an Italian-American organization,” said Cerini. “In October, Loretta came to the membership meeting and personally appealed, and everyone could see it was a worthy cause.”
Cerini said he thinks that programs like Primavera keep the Italian-American culture alive, sharing it with children who may be from diverse backgrounds.
Cerini, who owns Capital Shield Agency, said he was impressed by what he saw when his own children attended the program.
They learned about how Italians celebrate traditional holidays, as well as about the food, music, dance and art of Italy, said Cerini.
Fellow contributor Vincent Buccieri, a former vice-president of the lodge, added that the program was actually first started by former lodge president and late-Senator Guy Velella
Buccieri, whose children also are Primavera alums and who personally donated to the cause as well, said that he saw significant value for children of all cultures utilizing the program.
“The children immerse themselves in the Italian culture through dance, music and cooking,” said Buccieri, who is the owner of Today Realty.