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La Scuola d'Italia Galileo Galilei stokes interest in Pittsburgh's Italian heritage






Katherine Schaeffer | Trib Total Media

1/3 Angela Hertz, co-founder of La Scuola d'Italia Galileo Galileli (left) helps Rosanne Granieri, 60, of Upper Burrel, sign in to the school's Italian film night at Winchester Thurston school in Shadyside, Friday, June 26, 2015. La Scuola staff plan to open a bilingual daycare and preschool this fall.

2/3 Angela Hertz, co-founder of La Scuola d'Italia Galileo Galileli prepares for the school's Italian film night at Winchester Thurston school in Shadyside, Friday, June 26, 2015. La Scuola staff plan to open a bilingual daycare and preschool this fall.

3/3 La Scuola d'Italia Galileo Galileli members leave tips at the school's Italian film night at Winchester Thurston school in Shadyside, Friday, June 26, 2015. La Scuola staff plan to open a bilingual daycare and preschool this fall.


By Katherine Schaeffer

Sunday, July 5, 2015, 10:00 p.m.
Updated 12 hours ago

 

Angela Hertz's Italian-American grandparents taught her to love her heritage — the food, the culture and the sense of family.

But it wasn't until Hertz started college that she learned the language, studying abroad to hone her language skills.

“I made it my career,” said Hertz, 38, who has taught Italian at the high school level and the University of Pittsburgh. “I wanted to pass that on to everyone here who lost the language.”

Hertz's desire to help others preserve and celebrate their Italian heritage inspired her to co-found La Scuola d'Italia Galileo Galilei, a nonprofit Italian language school and cultural association, she said. La Scuola, which Hertz runs with her husband, Marco Marzulli, and colleague Derek Illar, will launch a bilingual day care and preschool this November.

Opened in May 2014, La Scuola offers language classes and cultural events for adults and families, Hertz said. The eventual goal is to open a K-12 Italian bilingual school — the only one in Pittsburgh, she said.

La Scuola has about 400 members, with about 100 enrolled in Italian lessons, Hertz said. Fourteen children are on the wait list for the day care and preschool program, she said.

The school offers Italian cultural classes and events, including summer camps, Italian film nights, study abroad opportunities and cultural courses in modern Italian music and art.

About 10 percent of Pittsburgh residents identify Italian as their primary ancestry, and Italians comprise the city's second-largest ethnic group, according to the Census Bureau's 2013 Community Survey.

Pittsburgh's Italian community is as diverse as it is large, said Melissa Marinaro, curator of the Heinz History Center's Italian American Program. Immigrants came to Pittsburgh throughout the 20th century for industrial jobs, and today, the city's tech and medical industries continue to attract Italian researchers, she said.

“We have one of the higher concentrations of people who claim Italian descent,” Marinaro said. “With our restaurants, neighborhoods and businesses, the Italian heritage is far more visible.”

With the large Italian population comes a desire to celebrate the culture, and La Scuola is part of the city's network of Italian cultural groups, Marinaro said. The groups attract a diverse crowd, ranging from first-generation Italian-Americans to young people looking to learn about their heritage to non-Italians who are interested in arts and culture, she said.

“The younger generation is interested, but they don't always know where to start because they don't have those family members around who can pass the knowledge on,” she said.

Annamaria LaCava, 52, of Oakmont said she and a group of six friends have been taking Italian lessons with Hertz since September. LaCava's grandparents were Italian immigrants, and learning the language helps her connect with her cousins in Italy, she said.

“My cousin emailed me last week,” LaCava said. “To be able to communicate with them in their own language is really great.”

For Hertz, helping preserve Italian heritage is especially important because she knows how easily it can slip away.

Her grandparents spoke fluent Italian, but, wanting them to fit in, encouraged their children to speak English.

“In one generation, the language got lost,” Hertz said.

Katherine Schaeffer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7832 orkschaeffer@tribweb.com.

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Sunday July 5th 2015 (internet)           By: Katherine Schaeffer, Staff Writer

Monday July 6th 2015 (paper) p. B3