Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Pechulis helps fill urgent health-care need

Westlake Urgent Care is a labor of love and source of pride for Shellye Pechulis, a nurse with more than four decades of experience who was integral to its creation in 2021. Pechulis, 71, currently works as nurse administrator at the non-profit urgent care facility in Melrose Park, which was created by her and a team of doctors, nurses and medical professionals who banded together to meet the needs of the community. “When we opened up everybody laughed at us and said we’d never make it,” she recalls. “Well, here we are.” Pechulis, whose father was born in Foggia, Italy, …

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Mueller keeps linguistic flame burning brightly

Now in his 7th year as a high school Italian-language teacher, Cody Mueller can’t imagine a career better suited for him. At one point, however, he came close to giving up on his dream. “It was a bumpy road there for a while,” the 30-year-old says. “Right out of college, I felt very enthusiastic about everything. I was working part-time but I had a hard time nailing down a full-time position, and I got a little bit exhausted. I started to lose faith in being able to find that stability and I even left teaching for two years.” A lifelong …

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Schiro pours passion for heritage into OSDIA role

Being Italian has always been central to Frank Schiro’s identity, and for decades he has devoted himself to highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of the community in the United States. An experienced litigator and trial attorney in Milwaukee, Schiro recently was elected president of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Grand Lodge of Illinois and Wisconsin. He is the founder of the former Filippo Mazzei Greater Milwaukee Lodge, which in 2009 merged with the Chicago Lodge to become the current Grand Lodge. Joining Schiro as Grand Lodge officers are Immediate Past President Marie Marsalli, Orator James LasCola, …

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Sportscaster Maria Marino

A veteran sportscaster at the age of 34, Maria Marino is forever broadening her skills and expanding her horizons in the profession. Multimedia on-air personality Maria Marino has a clear philosophy: Take advantage of any opportunity for growth. “I want to keep pushing boundaries,” the 34-year-old New Jersey native says. “It can be a hard path, but I think it’s rewarding when you keep challenging yourself and putting yourself in situations where you’re going to learn and grow.” For the past year, Marino has worked for the sports media company Action Network, where she hosts the Monday-through-Friday podcast “Green Dot …

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Philly Museum founder Michael Bonasera

A native of Brooklyn, Michael Bonasera has invested countless volunteer hours in the creation and running of the History of Italian Immigration Museum in Philadelphia. Michael Bonasera is the designer, builder and curator of the History of Italian Immigration Museum in Philadelphia. A mechanical engineer by trade, Bonasera, 69, has poured thousands of volunteer hours into the museum, which is part of Filitalia International, a nonprofit that promotes and preserves Italian heritage, language and customs throughout the world. He spoke with Fra Noi about how he started the museum, its mission and how it has evolved over the last decade. …

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Cooperation in classroom is key for Suraci

Italian teacher Francesca Tinnirello Suraci says the key to being an effective educator is to let your passion show. “You have to show how passionate you are about something, through your energy and your love for the subject,” Suraci says. “Those are the teachers that made the most impact on me.” Her Italian high school teacher, Dorina Spiering, was a great inspiration, says Suraci, a board member for the Midwest Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Italian. “She was such a passionate, bubbly person. I had never seen such a passion in a person,” she says, adding the …

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Mauzer steps up to presidency of AICS

A strong sense of community is a defining feature of the American Italian Cultural Society, according to John Mauzer, who was sworn in as president of the Crest Hill-based social club in December. “Our membership is one big family dedicated to sharing our Italian culture, teaching traditions and preserving our heritage,” Mauzer explains. “2024 is going to be a busy and exciting year. Our main focus is to give back to the membership and host cultural events.” Mauzer his wife of 39 years, Angela, live in Joliet and have been members of AICS for eight years. The couple has a …

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Cabonargi enjoying his new federal post

After a gratifying career as a lawyer and elected official, Michael “Mike” Cabonargi is loving his new job as regional director for the Great Lakes region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 52-year-old resident of Wilmette was appointed to the post by the White House in February 2023. “I am really lucky,” he says. “HHS has an amazing mission and it really affects everyone in positive ways.” Cabonargi oversees HHS Region V, which includes Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and 34 indigenous tribal nations. Altogether, the department has 10 regional offices and the largest federal …

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Fate guides Pezzella-Bonasera toward Italian

If not for a pair of fateful coincidences, Mariangela Pezzella-Bonasera might be working in the corporate world rather than pursuing a flourishing career teaching Italian 1, 2, 3 and AP at Wheeling High School. During her undergraduate years at Dominican University, she was studying international business and Italian when she took part in a marketing internship at the Sorrento Lingue (a language institute) in Italy. She finished her project ahead of schedule and got an assignment she wasn’t expecting — to teach English to Italian teens. “I actually fell in love with it and had a great time,” she says. “I …

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Homeboy Industries CEO Thomas Vozzo

A high-powered corporate executive for most of his career, Thomas Vozzo took a leap of faith more than a decade ago and dedicated himself to helping former gang members turn their lives around. As a middle-class kid who went on to forge a successful career in the corporate world, Thomas Vozzo hardly had anything in common with former gang members who’d been to prison. And yet, Vozzo has thrived personally and professionally in his role as CEO of Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit in Los Angeles that provides job training and support services to formerly incarcerated people who want to leave …

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