Cultural Italian American Organization 144 Genesee Street, Suite 102-240 Auburn, New York 13021
Cultural Italian American Organization144 Genesee Street, Suite 102-240Auburn, New York 13021



CIAO is proud to award annual scholarships to students from Auburn High School and/or Tyburn Academy. Information is available in the spring from the school guidance office. 


2023 Scholarship Winners


The Cultural Italian American Organization of Cayuga County awarded seven scholarships to graduating seniors at the group's picnic June 19. Winners were MIchael Clark, 1st place, Abigail Carr, 2nd place, and Colin Musso, Sophie Pettigrass, Patrick Crawford, Mia D'Angelo and Schae Fitzgerald, runners-up.


CIAO has given a total of 27 scholarships since 2015, and its members are proud of their work giving back to the community. Pictured from left are CIAO scholarship committee members Tony Gucciardi, Matthew Crawford, Sophie Pettigrass, Shae Fitzgerald, Colin Musso, Michael Clark, Abigail Carr, Mia D'Angelo, and committee members Mary Ann Muceola and Arlene Ryan.



Michael Clark, 1st place


Faith, good work ethic, family, and a love of food were the values I was taught growing up in an Italian family stemming from my grandparents. Although my grandfather is Italian through and through, my grandmother is Irish, but she's about the most Italian Irish woman I have ever met. She makes the best meatballs around and had fourteen children, so she is pretty much a superhero.


    My mother is the eighth of those fourteen children and her parents taught her to always work hard and to always give one hundred percent. She was also raised to attend mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Most importantly though, she was raised to have family gatherings centered around food, (usually macaroni and meatballs), which we still have to this day. 


    Although I come from a comparatively small family of four, my best memories are having Sunday dinners with my extended family. My grandfather sitting at the head of the table, everyone talking over each other, and a very clear depiction of the phrase, "the more the merrier."


    Growing up Italian has definitely shown me the importance of family ties, and I am happy to say that I have over fifty cousins on just one side, and we all share ties with each other. Although they are all crazy, I love them all and wouldn't trade my family for the world.


Abigail Carr, 2nd place


Although my name, Abigail Carr does not sound Italian, I am very Italian. Our Italian heritage is celebrated throughout the year and it starts with Thursday nights at my Grandpa Bernie and Grandma MaryAnn’s house. Every Thursday my family, including my Uncle John, my Uncle David, and my cousins get together for my grandfather’s homemade pizza. Each time he reminds us of the pizza his mother used to make and that she always said that it’s important, “not to be afraid of the dough”. He also tells us about the times when he lived on Spring Street and then Washington Street and that nobody spoke English. He has taught all six of his granddaughters how to make the dough along with homemade pasta too. 


Sundays are also special days too, which usually start with attending mass either at St. Mary’s, where my sisters and I are altar servers or we head over to the church my grandmother grew up in, St. Francis. After mass, we head home and by mid-afternoon, we’re off to my grandparent’s house for dinner. Once again we get together for dinner and share our time with each other. 


However,  I must be honest and say that my truly favorite time of year is when we prepare for Christmas. Starting the first week of December we assemble in my Grandma MaryAnn’s kitchen, go through old recipes on index cards and decide which cookies we will make to celebrate the holiday. A few must-haves are the chocolate bar cookies, the powdered Italian wedding cookies, almond cookies, the rainbow cookies, and the chocolate rum balls too. My mother will also make the ribbon cookies that we call guanti, but my grandmother won’t let us make them at her house because she doesn’t want the house to smell like fried food. That time of year is special for us because that’s when my grandmother takes over the kitchen and there is a different energy buzzing around us. There is order and organization where everyone has a job to accomplish. Three generations work in unison with the goal of making something delicious and beautiful. Once all the cookies are made, it’s assembly time.  During that process, the stories of those who have passed away are told. My Grandma Minnie is mentioned, and how she always made trays of cookies for all of her friends. My cousins and I reminisce about our days at the Boyle Center when we’d visit our Grandma Rose. The memories of these people are a part of my heritage and I take pride in learning about these traditions I hope to carry them on in the future. After the cookies are made and assembled, my grandmother has to make space for my grandfather so that he can plan the menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Not many of the grandchildren like fish, so he doesn’t commit to the tradition of seven fish, he usually goes with three items and there is definitely something from Lombardi’s and DeLauro’s bakery on the table for those two days. 


My parents and grandparents have infused a sense of family with our Italian heritage. It’s a different type of family experience on my mother’s side of the family compared to my father’s. I’m very close with my father’s family too, but there is a different type of togetherness. My father didn’t grow up with any cousins, whereas my mother did and they all get together several times a year. Storytelling is entertainment and the highlight of the Oliver family parties. You know it’s going to be good when everyone gathers around my grandfather for stories that he has told multiple times but never seems to get old. My family has influenced me in understanding my Italian culture greatly and I truly appreciate what they have given me.



Colin Musso


I woke up the other morning to my father cooking sauce. He was on the phone with his mother to get information about what brand of tomato puree she used. No matter what cultural background you possess, one thing that brings people together is food. My father’s side is 100% Italian, and my earliest memories of them involve us getting together for meals. I have always enjoyed Sunday dinners with the family. I cherish spending time with them and have come to appreciate and love the Italian food shared among them for generations: bignolata, pasta fagioli, bracioles, cavatelli, and seven fishes on Christmas Eve, to name a few. I used to be a picky eater; I remember I hesitated to try these foods. But as I got older, I realized everything I had missed out on in my earlier years. I can’t imagine a week without one of those food items, and it reinforces how much food is a part of my Italian heritage and shapes my life.


          Who can forget Italian cookies? My parents told me that on their wedding day, my grandmother and her sisters made up two large plates of cookies and placed them on either side of the wedding cake. There wasn’t a crumb left on the plates, but unfortunately, they had leftover cake for weeks. They also spoke about how my great-grandfather made his own wine, and they had a carafe of the last of his red and white wine on each table. 


          These memories will live on for me because I value remembering family stories and traditions. Gathering together to share a meal leads to sharing stories of being Italian. I hear stories about the parts of the city where Italians lived, the Italian Festival, and how both of my grandparents’ parents’ tended to gardens in their backyard. Some of these traditions are no longer practiced, but I will share the stories to tell my family someday. My father is trying to revive the Italian Festival in Auburn, and if this is the case, then I look forward to creating memories so that I can share first-hand accounts about what it means to be Italian. 


Sophie Pettigrass


From a young age, I have realized the importance of my Italian heritage in my life.  This has been demonstrated through my family members.  


My grandmother, who was a very kind, loving and giving person, was thrust into the task of taking over and leading the family after the sudden death of my grandfather.  She did so with grace and elegance. My grandmother was always getting the family together for gatherings from holidays to every birthday and anniversary imaginable.  She would work all day on a delicious sauce to feed everyone and she would insist on sending leftovers in plastic cool whip containers that she saved and washed for just such occasions.  She demonstrated to the whole family how important family is and how we are all there to help each other.  She succeeded in getting three children through college successfully after their father’s untimely death.  One of those three, was only a senior in high school at the time of his father’s death and went on to finish undergraduate school and then complete law school and start his own legal practice.  That man, I am proud to say, is my father.  


My dad continues to carry on the tradition of helping everyone he can whether it is helping out with legal issues from traffic tickets to personal injuries at no cost to the family member that needs his help, to going over to his cousin’s house on the weekend to help put a coat of driveway sealer down.  My dad is continuing the tradition of being a person of Italian heritage by helping anyone who needs his help any way he can.


Patrick Crawford


I am named after my great grandfather, Pasquale Petrosino.  He and my great grandmother, Anita Petrosino, are 100% Italian. Their parents came to the U.S. as teenagers. Unfortunately, my great grandfather passed away when I was 7 months old. My grandmother will be 96 in August. I have always had a very close relationship with her. She came over each morning when my sister and I were in elementary school to put us on the bus and was always there if my parents needed someone to watch us. But she didn’t just “watch us”. Even though she was in her 80’s, she played games, read stories, taught us how to swim, and even played video games. There was nothing “Big Nannie,” as we call her, would not do for her family. 


Aside from family, religion was also very important to my grandmother. Because of this, my family attended church each Sunday.  I was baptized and made my first holy communion at Sacred Heart Parish. When it was time for me to start thinking about my confirmation, I knew I wanted Big Nannie to be my sponsor. It meant the world to me that she was able to be by my side as I made that sacrament. 


My father has been an active member of the Knights of Columbus since he was 18. As a young boy, I started volunteering there and quickly learned the importance of giving back to one’s community. I have been involved in numerous fundraising events, including St. Baldrick’s Head Shaving events to raise money for children’s cancer research. I also served on the committee for “Operation Enduring Gratitude” to send area veterans on an all expense paid trip to Washington D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor. These experiences have helped shape me into the man I am today. I recently turned 18 and plan to become a member of the Knights of Columbus soon. 


My father has always told me about the Sunday dinners he attended as a young boy at the Petrosino house. His aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather around the table for “Sunday sauce.” My parents continue this tradition in our home. My dad makes homemade sauce, meatballs and braciole, along with his own homemade Italian bread almost every Sunday. After dinner, we play cards and games and enjoy each other’s company. My parents do their best to include our extended family whenever possible. 


The most important thing that I have learned from my Italian relatives is that family is everything. I am grateful for my family and all of the life lessons that they have given me. After I graduate from college, I hope that I can return to the Auburn area to be close to my family.


Mia D'Angelo


My Italian culture is something that I am very proud of. Even though I have moved to the other side of the world, and am surrounded by a million different cultures daily, my parents have helped me stay connected to my culture. My family moved to the United States from Sicily about 9 years ago. The hardest thing for me was staying connected with my family and most importantly my culture since I was so far away from the only things I’ve ever known.


          However, my parents never failed to help me stay connected to our culture. They tried their hardest to keep us connected and not let us forget our traditions. The holidays were the biggest thing to get used to. It was very hard at first especially because we wouldn’t be seeing our families. To make up for the fact that we were having a hard time, my mother always cooked and baked our traditional Sicilian foods to make us feel like we were back home. As I ate the delicious scaccia that my mother made, I remembered what it was like to sit next to my cousins around the table eager to see what present was hiding underneath the colorful wrapping paper. I realized how much I had taken for granted being able to see my favorite cousins while we ate our dinner and waited for midnight to open our gifts. My culture has helped me stay connected with these memories I have even though I can’t relive them. 


          Moving here was very challenging. I had to get used to a new language and different cultures very quickly. Some people were very judgemental when it came to different cultures and it was something I had struggled to take pride in. As I got older, I realized that I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. My Italian culture has influenced me to take pride in my traditions. It influenced me to teach my classmates and my friends about our traditions and the history behind them. After all, my Italian culture influenced me to be vocal about my past. I learned that I shouldn’t have to hide who I am because it is different from the people around me. 


Schae Fitzgerald


Italian culture is very unique in many different ways. From all of the delicious food that is eaten all around the world, to the different types of fashion, to the way we celebrate different things. Even though Italians are known for being particularly loud, we are very respectful. We greet everyone around us with kindness, especially our families since Italians are very family oriented. Overall, Italian culture is very special to me and it has influenced my life in many ways. 


I am very thankful to say that I was born into Italian culture. My mother’s grandparents, also my great-grandparents came from Bari, Italy, and since then have formed generations of Marinelli’s in Auburn, NY. There is a family bakery of ours still open to this day in Bari, Italy called II Fornaio Marinelli. I have always dreamed of one day being able to go to visit, and I hope one day that will come true. Knowing that my family has a bakery in Italy is very fascinating to me, and it is also something special to me that I feel proud of when I tell others about it. 


Something about Italian culture that has influenced my life is the food. Italian food is always my favorite thing to eat, and something I always get excited about when I am able to have it. Whenever I go out to eat at a restaurant, Italian food is always what I think about as what I want to eat, and is my definition of a perfect meal. My family and I have always enjoyed Italian food, and whenever our family gets together from around The United States, we always eat Italian food together. My family still uses old recipes that were written and made by my great-grandparents. Some of these recipes include foods like all different kinds of pastas, and pies. We always used to go every Sunday to eat at my grandparents house, and ever since they passed, we have continued to make these recipes as a family. When we eat these foods, we will always remember that these recipes came from them, and it makes it feel like they are still there eating with us. These recipes have been passed down through generations, and they will continue to go through more generations of my family. 


          Another thing about Italian culture that has not yet influenced my life, but I am hoping it will in the future, is all of the beautiful places to go to in Italy. My dream place to visit before I die is Italy. Places like Bari, Venice, Rome, and Florence have always been places I have dreamed of going to one day. The scenery is something that I think if I saw in real life, I would never forget it, and it would influence me in many different ways. The places there look so beautiful and appealing, and once I go, I know I will never want to leave. The fashion in Italy is something that is also appealing to me, and I would like to also go to see the types of outfits that people wear, and all of the different styles. I think seeing the fashion would also influence me to want to dress like the people there. 


          Overall, Italian culture is something that is very unique in its own ways, but there are also some parts that have been spread throughout the world, which shows how important it is to have. The food, fashion, and scenery are some of the things that I feel that have influenced me, but there are also many more little things like just the way Italians act and the respect they have for others. Something besides all of these things that Italian culture has influenced me the most is my family. They are the most important thing to me, and they are who have brought me closer to Italian culture. 










Congratulations to past winners:


2021: Amelia Bartolotta, Elizabeth Moriarty, Emma Lomascolo, Krysha Pierce, Luca Pirozzolo, Zachary Saurini

2020: Elisa Faiola, Caroline Netti, and Zachary DeCaro

2019: Ashley Reilly and Zachery Moore

2018: Victoria DeJoy and Emma Clark

2017: Lydia Marteney and Christopher Moriarty. 

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