National Italian American Foundation initiative brings "Italian pride" to campus
The Penn students, Alexa DePasquale and Anthony Balduzzi, who launched the first NIAF Italian-American Pride Club to hit a college campus, studied in Florence in Summer 2010 with our Penn Summer Abroad program.
With the Jersey Shore tainting images of Italian-American culture, the National Italian American Foundation is aiming to shape a more realistic conception of Italian-American pride.
This fall, NIAF is collaborating with Penn students Alexa DePasquale and Anthony Balduzzi, who launched the first NIAF Italian-American Pride Club to hit a college campus.
“We’re bringing back Italian-American pride to the youth,” said DePasquale, a College junior.
DePasquale plans to promote the term “Italicity,” referring to the cultural heritage shared by young Italian-Americans today.
“Italicity is linked to a nation and a language. There are many Americans who not speak Italian but in their soul they identify with the Italian culture,” Director of the Center for Italian Studies Fabio Finotti said. "These are the students enthused with Italicity."
“We are creating a new population, the Italics!” Finotti laughed.
DePasquale and Balduzzi spent the summer studying in Florence before deciding to bring NIAF to Penn.
“It was eye-opening in that it allowed me to see the roots of Italian-American culture,” said Balduzzi, a College senior.
DePasquale’s father’s fraternity brother — Penn alumnus Ken Ciongoli — was a chairman of NIAF before passing away, leaving an endowment fund for student educational initiatives in his name. This fund granted $5,000 from the NIAF to start the club, and DePasquale began writing a guide to starting Italian-American organizations, a how-to she hopes to send to other Ivies in January.
“I think that the fact that Penn will be the first university [to launch a NIAF club] is great. And the students hope to begin the club at the other great universities, so it’s not only a local initiative,” Finotti said.
But for now, the focus remains on Penn, where the club hopes to take students to the Italian Market and South Philadelphia, an area highly populated with Italian-Americans. NIAF members will be issued membership cards that will give carriers 10-percent discounts at Gia Pronto and Taglio.
“This is about revitalizing and celebrating the good things about Italian culture and steering away from the stereotypes that modern culture has produced,” Balduzzi said.
NIAF’s launch is not the only Italian-American initiative on campus. Penn’s new Italian-American fraternity, Alpha Phi Delta hosted a cannoli and coffee social Monday to recruit new members. The two groups plan to work in tandem, and to help promote each other.
NIAF began recruiting members this past Saturday at an informational wine-tasting event. “It’s not just for Italian-Americans. The point of this group is to bring together students who value Italian tradition and ways of life,” DePasquale said.