AT celebrated another successful Italian Heritage Week, which brought back the welcoming feeling it is known for. It celebrates Italian culture and language, as well as AT’s Italian community.
The Italian program was introduced at AT 28 years ago with Giuditta Vitiritti teaching five Italian 1 classes.
With the other languages already being offered by AT for some time, Vitiritti did not expect the program to start off as strongly as it did. “We had Spanish, German, and French, I believe, at that time. Kids like options and if a student is already enrolled in another language, why would they come over? We did have students that would take three languages sometimes, but that’s a rarity,” said Vitiritti.
The very first year of the program being offered, she had five classes of 30 kids, a total of 150 students.
The program’s success allowed it to grow and continue educating students on the language and culture. This caused the appreciation for the culture to expand outside of the Italian classrooms and be expressed by celebrations like Italian Heritage Week.
The week was planned by AT’s Italian club sponsors, Italian teacher Enza Spilotro and World Language teacher Laura Calo. The Italian Club also contributed to the planning and helped with decorating the Blazer hallway.
The hallway where the Italian classrooms are located was also decorated, with the help of students enrolled in Italian.
For the first time, Italian Heritage Week doubled as a spirit week, which had different themes planned for each day. “We did spirit week themes that we thought we can kind of ‘Italianize’ and make sure everyone is involved and has fun with it,” said Spilotro.
The week started on Oct. 25 with a pajama day. The next day, Tuesday, encouraged students to wear green, white, and red to match the colors of the Italian flag.
On Wednesday, students dressed up in the same clothes as their friends for Twin Day.
It was an exceptionally exciting day, as Italian Club’s president Antonio Bruno hosted a pasta eating competition during lunch periods. After school, members of the club were welcome to invite friends to watch a movie in one of the classrooms.
Thursday, students participated by wearing their favorite jerseys. That same day, to show their appreciation, Spilotro and Calo had 330 cannoli for the staff to enjoy.
The cannoli were donated by Elio Pizza On Fire, whose owner Elio Bartolotta was later interviewed by Italian Club’s president Enzo Ciaccia.
To finish the week, on Oct. 29, the students showed their pride by wearing Italian Heritage, Blazer Blue, and Go Pink shirts.
When planning for the week, Calo kept in mind bringing awareness to students with Italian heritage, adding, “There is a pretty big group of Italians represented here in Addison, so we want to make sure that we celebrate the Italian culture and people are aware that there’s more to it.
“We want to make sure that people understand our culture and understand some of the traditions that we have.”
Not only does the week celebrate the culture, but it also serves as an amazing opportunity for students interested in taking Italian courses to learn more about the culture and experience the enthusiasm and hospitality that simply radiates from the hallway where the Italian classrooms are located.
Calo acknowledged the influence of the celebration on the enrollment in Italian courses, “I think it brings exposure and students then become more intrigued in the Italian culture, thus they become more intrigued in the language and it trickles down to them wanting to take the course.”
This year’s celebration was undoubtedly the biggest one yet. It certainly more than made up for the lack of a celebration last year, due to remote learning.
“With the year we had last year, we just wanted to make sure that we came back with a bang. We were just very fortunate, happy, and appreciative to have a week where we can celebrate the language,” explained Spilotro.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from both staff and students speaks for itself.
The success and feedback after the week hint at even better celebrations in future years. Spilotro confirmed that they are constantly thinking about new ideas and shared some that may potentially be expected in the future.
“Because of COVID delays we didn’t get to sell t-shirts this year, so it actually made us realize we want to do that next year. We would also love to do some sort of gelato sale.
“We’re always thinking of something new to add on to the week and little by little I think we’re going to have a spectacular week planned for the kids and for the staff.”
With the joint efforts of Spilotro and Calo, Italian Heritage Week played a major role in bringing back joy and liveliness to the hallways of AT.