THE HISTORY OF THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE FOUNDATION
After nearly ten years of effort on the part of educators and the intervention of Mrs. Matilda Raffa Cuomo and Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D., the Advanced Placement (AP) Program in Italian Language and Culture was launched by The College Board in 2005. (The College Board is a non-profit organization that creates educational guidelines and programs in a range of subjects for high school teachers and administers exams that grant qualified high school students college credit for courses taken in high school.) This was a momentous occasion, as Italian was the first new AP Language Program to be offered by The College Board in fifty years!
WHY IS THE AP ITALIAN PROGRAM SO IMPORTANT?
It allows committed young men and women to earn college credit or advanced standing for their high school work and can help students graduate early from some colleges and universities, saving them or their families thousands of dollars in tuition fees. AP courses are offered in cities and towns across the country, providing students who may never travel overseas exposure to Italy’s great language and culture.
The existence of Italian language at the AP level encourages school systems throughout the United States to establish early Italian language teaching in more middle and high schools every year.
More broadly, AP Italian is an international program that is an asset for the Republic of Italy and its bi-lateral relations with the United States in education, culture, tourism and trade. Italy is the second most frequently visited country for American students studying abroad, (second only to England). Tens of thousands of American companies have offices in Italy that benefit by having American speakers of Italian among their employees.
Italian language is also an essential building block for anyone in the fields of law, medicine and opera. The study of Italian is essential in the learning of bel canto singing, as just one example.
America’s Italian Culture and Language AP program was initiated with the support of the Republic of Italy, led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In April 2008, at the end of the AP Italian Program’s third year, despite significant growth in AP Italian enrollment, The College Board announced that it had sustained significant financial losses related to the program and that it would be discontinued program unless external funding became available.
The Italian Language Foundation’s founders, Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D. and her mother Mrs. Matilda Cuomo, approached the then President of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, Louis Tallarini, and the three immediately undertook an international effort to raise awareness of the peril facing AP Italian and found that the education and Italian-American communities were galvanized in their determination that high school students have the opportunity to enroll in Advanced Placement courses in Italian.
Dr. Cuomo and Mr. Tallarini, with the support of Mrs. Mario Cuomo, the Republic of Italy, and the Columbus Citizens Foundation established the Italian Language Foundation on July 3, 2008 to support Italian language education and the AP Italian program.
Between August and December of 2008, the ILF worked closely with The College Board, which developed a strategy through which streamlined its operations relating to AP Italian. As a result, its requirements to maintain the program were reduced from $4.5 million to $1.5 million for the academic year of 2009-2010.
The ILF also created and coordinated Task Forces of Italian language teachers and advocates throughout the United States to increase student participation in AP Italian beginning with the 2009 academic year.
And during the last six months of 2008, the Foundation (ILF) raised over $650,000 in pledges and commitments to help underwrite the AP Italian program. The commitments came from individuals, corporations and philanthropic organizations in the United States. However, important commitments from Italian American organizations were contingent upon on a financial partnership with the Republic of Italy. Regrettably, the relevant offices of the Republic of Italy had already fully committed funding resources through the end of 2009 and were unable to make a commitment to help underwrite AP Italian. The economic climate of the second half of 2008 further hampered the ability to make commitments. As a result, the AP Italian Language and Culture program was suspended beginning with the 2009-2010 academic year. However, thanks to the support of individuals and groups such as the CCF, NIAF, OSIA, and UNICO, the AP Italian Language Program was reinstated in September 2011 and enrollment continues to grow!
The Italian Language Foundation remains committed to further developing a network of support for Italian language educators throughout the United States. The focus is now on the promotion of the AP Italian Program and of Italian language education at the Middle and High School levels throughout the USA. Teachers must be encouraged to prepare professionally for the teaching of AP Italian, and students must be encouraged to begin a course of study of Italian, beginning in middle school, or at least ninth grade. School administrators must be encouraged to offer Italian in middle and high schools, and parents and teachers can be primary advocates in that effort.