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 two $500 scholarships to students from Auburn High School and/or Tyburn Academy. Information is available in the spring from the school guidance office. 


CIAO awards three scholarships

in 2020

Due to donations received during a free

Pasta Giveaway held by CIAO during

the Covid-19 quarantine,

CIAO decided to award an additional

$500 scholarship for 2020


2020 winners are Tyburn Academy senior Elisa Faiola, Auburn High School senior Caroline Netti,  and Union Springs High School senior Zachary DeCaro. Congratulations! Their winning essays are below:


Essay by Elisa Faiola



Italian culture has greatly influenced my life, and has helped make me the person I am today. My Father’s grandparents came directly from Italy. My grandpa’s relatives, the Faiolas, resided in Fondi, Italy, in the Naples region, and my grandmother’s relatives, the Rossis, resided in the Tuscany region, in Northern Italy. They emigrated to America at a very young age, and because of this they were subjected to much discrimination. I did not personally know my great grandparents, but my family has passed down the incredible stories that they told to my siblings and me. My great Grandmother Nonna, told how she was humiliated and shamed in her school, the children calling her demeaning names and made fun of her for not knowing any English. They would make fun of the lunches she brought to school, but this food would become what we know as Gourmet food today. The strength and strong faith my Italian relatives had to completely move their lives to a new country where they knew nobody, is very compelling. They endured enormous obstacles and if it wasn’t for their brave spirit they possessed, I would not be here today.


There is one Italian woman in particular who I believe influenced my life tremendously, my great Aunt Mary. She was very close with my family and me while I was growing up. She experienced so much throughout her life and it was so inspiring to see how loving and kind she still was. At a very young age her mother died and she and her 13 siblings were left alone with their father. She did not have an easy life growing up. Her family was extremely poor, but despite this she was the happiest person. Aunt Mary did not have any children of her own, so when she got older she would spend weeks at my house helping my mother raise me and my siblings. Aunt Mary was like a grandmother to me. She helped teach me my alphabet and how to count, but she would also have fun with me by taking me to the park, spending hours coloring with me, and of course, teaching me how to play her favorite game, Yahtzee. She was by far one of the most generous women I knew. She loved baking and cooking, so for every holiday Aunt Mary would cook pounds and pounds of spaghetti and meatballs for everyone in her apartment complex. She also baked dozens of cookies around Christmas time and would send them to the men in the Gulf War. These random acts of kindness just show what kind of woman she was. Aunt Mary valued her family so much, and especially her Italian roots, she taught me to do just the same. Sadly, she passed on a few years ago, but I will never forget the strong Italian culture that she portrayed to me and my siblings.


In my school life, I have also been positively influenced by Italian culture. My highschool did not offer Italian as a language to learn, but they did offer Latin. I took four years of Latin, and it truly has increased my respect for Italian culture. I learned all about the beginnings of Rome, the rock of the Italian culture. I hope to continue learning latin in college as well, to deepen my understanding of my heritage. I also participate in the Saint Maria Goretti Guild at my highschool, this guild is centered around an Italian girl, St. Maria Goretti, who was martyred at age 13 for her faith. She is another Italian role model I have, and I strive to live her virtues in my daily life.


My Italian relatives are not the only ones who have influenced Italian culture in my life. I grew up in an Italian Church, St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church. I have many memories singing the Italian songs the choir taught me, preparing for the Italian festivals by making wandies, a traditional Italian cookie, and pizza fritta, and decorating the church for Christmas and Easter. This loving culture has taught me the importance of working together and keeping God and your family as a top priority in life. I am extremely thankful for my Italian heritage, and appreciate the life lessons it has instilled in me. 


Essay by Caroline Netti


My dad is 100% Italian which makes me 50% Italian. The Italian Culture has influenced me since I was born. I am a twin and when I was born my dads huge Italian family came to the hospital to welcome us. But of course they didn’t arrive empty handed, my grandmother brought eggplant sandwiches, and my aunts brought coffee and cannolis. They all sat anxiously in the waiting room for the news of my birth. When my sister and I were baptized it was another opportunity for our family to get together and celebrate. When I was a toddler, both of my grandmothers watched me while my parents worked. I fondly remember my grandmother Rita. My memories on Wallace Ave consisted of her making me my favorite lunches, and reading books to me in her back room. On Sunday’s my family and I would go to my grandmother Rita’s and eat a big pasta dinner. Obviously you can see the connection of Italian food on the Italian side of my family. My grandmother would create all the traditional Italian dishes for every holiday. My favorites were her Italian cookies. As I grew older my grandmother told me about her parents and her in-laws experiences in their home country. I was always fascinated by these stories and I hoped someday I would be able to experience them myself. When it came to picking a language in school, it was a no brainer to choose Italian. I am currently completing college level Italian class and because of my middle school Italian teacher I was able to complete my goal and travel to Italy. I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy this past July with 20 other classmates. We spent 2 weeks traveling all up and down the country. Obviously I learned about the Italian culture from my own family and the classes I have taken in school but to experience it first-hand was a dream come true. While in Italy we went to Rome, Florence, Capri, Venice, Pompeii, and San Gimignano. I loved speaking the language with locals and tasting new foods. My family is from Bari which unfortunately we are not able to visit but next time I go I would like to see where my family lived. The Italian Culture has influenced the way I eat, the religion I practice, the second language that I speak, and the country I want to visit again.


Essay by Zachary DeCaro



There are certain things that contribute to how we mature and what make us into the people we are. One thing that I feel is a leading source of this growth is an appreciation of your heritage. Through direct experience, learning and listening, where we go and who we became can also be linked to where we came from. One of the positive take-aways from my current involvement with the CIAO organization, has been a direct connection to my Italian American roots. My personal background comes from my father’s family which can be traced through the last name of DeCaro. In conversation with my dad and being taken through St. Joseph’s cemetery in Auburn, NY there is several hundred years’ worth of history there. One minor detail that was explained to me was my great-great-grandfather’s grave marker which notes our last name. The actual “Italian” spelling of our name is listed, that being DiCaro. Through time and after his death the name became Americanized and details are fuzzy depending on who you speak with. But something as simple as knowing this simple item, for me helped to give a point of reference. Continuing through the cemetery I learned of my relatives from past generations and who my father knew personally.


In hearing stories that relate to family unity and togetherness, my father speaks of being a young boy and on Sundays the family would take his grandmother to church. Afterward they would take Gramma home and upon their arrival his great-grandmother would be waiting and together the family would make a pasta, bread and meatball dinner…”from scratch”. I can picture the table with the flour and egg, the water boiling, and the conversation being had all while they worked together. Then this mess of a table would be cleaned and converted into a set, welcoming place with plentiful food and warm spirits. Something as simple as this cements a standard of how I feel family should be appreciated and how I enjoy taking the lead when preparing a meal and enjoying the family I have. This will continue in my life and as I make my own traditions, I will always give tribute to past traditions.


Also, simply stated I am just incredibly grateful. I feel that there is so much opportunity and the life we live now is so much different from the life immigrants lived and how my family lived generation ago. I can trace my heritage and the boats that people travelled on when arriving at Ellis Island. When I am faced with an obstacle, I can draw a pale comparison to what other’s faced and I then see the obstacle as a challenge and realize how lucky I am. You can draw inspiration from these events and see the abundance to be taken advantage of.


In writing this I am preparing to attend college in the Fall of 2020. This is something that was not available to past generations. Their education came through hard work in the trades, through family connections and references. If there was no work, there was no money. So, necessity became the mother of invention. Now, I am so fortunate to have ample opportunity and no limit for potential. As I take on this new chapter, I see it as a way to better myself and pursue a career of choice. Though very much “American” in today’s culture and standards I always can lean on my “Italian” heritage and always look to bring pride to my family name. I am my own person but stand on the shoulders of many great generations. I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be an Italian American.


Congratulations to past winners:

2019: Ashley Reilly and Zachery Moore

2018: Victoria DeJoy and Emma Clark

2017: Lydia Marteney and Christopher Moriarty. 

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