What do high school students think about in their two final years of school, when they think about their future? College, most likely. And some of their questions are about the ways in which what they have learned up until that point can be really relevant as they continue with their education. The Early College Summer Intensive Course in Italian offered on the Montclair State University campus this past summer was again the ideal opportunity to link the high school and university experience through three weeks of intensive immersion in Italian language and culture. In the words of one of the attending students, Spencer Acciarito: “The perfect mix of learning and fun.”
This second edition of the summer course hosted an ethnically diverse group of HS students from all over NJ. Importantly, many Hispanic students were able to capitalize on the similarities with Spanish to hone their skills in Italian. They will be even more equipped to take the AP Italian course and exam, thus increasing their presence among AP takers at a time in which the school system calls for more diversity in the AP endeavors (article). The summer course students; interests in Italian culture as an integral part of their future plans range from studying physical therapy in Italy to becoming an international interpreter, using Italian in the musical profession, and pursuing a career in fashion design. What unites them within their diversity is a love of Italian and the desire to become fluent in the language.
By focusing on a variety of contemporary issues ranging from the use of technology (social media) to food practices (slow vs. fast food), art movements (contemporary artists challenging traditional notions of Italy), and family habits (aging family members and grown-up children living at home), they honed their conversational skills, as well as reading and writing abilities, via engaging audio-visual and written materials chosen by the instructor, Matilde Fogliani.
The class experience was enhanced by dynamic lunch talks given by professors from Montclair State University and high school teachers, a contributor to the Corriere della Sera, Italian store managers, and experts active in architecture preservation in the local area. The talks provided a rich background to the off-campus tours, which constituted the high point of this course according to the participants.
Students made fresh pasta at Eataly, NY; learned about the values of beauty and creativity inspiring Made in Italy brands at the Scavolini, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana stores in Soho; and visited the unique Arte Povera collection on display at Magazzino in Cold Spring, NY. In the course of these visits they were led by young, enthusiastic guides who explained how learning Italian as college students has not only opened a new exciting culture for them, but ultimately careers in art, gastronomy, and fashion.
Designed to prepare students for an advanced or AP class in an interactive environment that allows for individualized attention through both traditional and high-tech tools, this highly affordable course provides students with three college credits that have already been fruitfully expended by incoming college students. Thanks to a steady fundraising campaign, scholarships were assigned to half of the enrolled students. After two years of steady dedication to this innovative project, co-organizers Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, MSU), Patti Grunther (Watchung Hills High School teacher), and Marisa Trubiano (Associate Professor of Italian, MSU) observed: “This is a galvanizing collaborative effort across educational systems in the U.S. as well as Italian and American institutions, from IACE and the Inserra Endowment to the NJIHC. Its continued success rests on the involvement of a larger pool of high schools from NJ and the Tri-State area, beyond the current consortium, as well as on the broader support of the Italian community of donors. We hope that what continues to be the only Italian course for high school students offered on a university campus for college credit in the U.S. can further grow in the future as part of an expanding synergy.”