The great South African leader Nelson Mandela once noted, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” As Mandela suggests, through Italian language, we can deepen our connection to all things Italian. And as we all know, Italy has so much to offer. Its art, culture, music, food and architecture are justly famous throughout the world and have given much pride to those of Italian heritage.
The importance of Italian as a language not just of art, food and culture, but also of business, technology and science, is undeniable and well-earned. According to the Polarte website, “Italy is one of the world’s top ten economies after building steadily after the Second World War from mainly exporting goods. Germany, France, the United States, and other European countries are the biggest importers of Italian goods such as industrial products, cars and car parts, fashion, as well as food. Many Italian businesses that do business outside of Italy know only Italian or very little English. Italy is also focused on building strong trade agreements with China and India.”
Italian language learning has an enthusiastic advocate in Italidea-Midwest Ltd. In operation for more than a decade and a half, Italidea-Midwest is dedicated “to the education of tomorrow’s leaders by teaching children and young adults the Italian language and the finest traditions of Italian culture,” according to its mission statement. A 501(c)3 charitable corporation, Italidea-Midwest fosters Italian language and culture through most of the Chicago Italian Consular Jurisdiction, which includes Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
The consulate contributes to the efforts of Italidea-Midwest through the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to its estimates, more than 22,000 Italian citizens live in the state of Illinois and more than 30,000 live in the entire jurisdiction. In addition, according to a recent census compiled by agencies of the United States, approximately 735,000 American citizens of Italian origin live in Illinois and 1,435,000 live in the before-mentioned jurisdiction.
Lyn Scolaro, one of Italidea-Midwest’s early board members, remembers the birth of this “ente promotore” and its expansion under the education office director at the Italian Consulate General of Italy in Chicago, Anna Fiore, in the early 2000s. Current Director Sandro Corso continues the work of disbursing Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs funds to Italidea-Midwest, which in turn supports a variety of existing school language programs.
Invigorated by the election of a new board of directors last summer, Italidea-Midwest distributed funding to select schools in December and hopes to continue to provide support to those same schools as well as new programs in December 2019. Financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supplemented by local fund-raising efforts, with a wine-and-cheese pairing at the Italian Cultural Institute last fall kicking off the new board’s efforts. A fund-raiser in March will allow the organization to continue to expand its support of programs throughout the Chicago area and the entire consular region.
The March fundraiser is being spearhead by new board member Frank Di Piero. Noting that Italidea strives “to promote the beautiful Italian language and culture by funding programs taught at the grammar school and middle school levels,” Frank notes all donations to Italiadea-Midwest are tax deductible to the full extent allowable by law.
The March fundraiser will be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 13 at RoccoVino’s, 4747 N. Harlem Ave., Harwood Heights. To purchase tickets, visit italidea-midwest.org.
The vast territory covered by the consulate makes promoting the Italian language a challenge, but a welcome one, as Italidea-Midwest begins a new year of projects to support “la bella lingua.”
The above appears in the March 2019 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.