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. 


2022 Scholarship Winners


The Cultural Italian American Organization of Cayuga County awarded three scholarships to graduating seniors at the group's picnic June 20. Winners were Bethany Lorenzo, Michael Villano, and Iris Rodriguez. Iris was awarded the "Tom Grasso Memorial Scholarship," given this year in memory of one of CIAO's very active and cherished members, who recently passed away. 


CIAO has given a total of 20 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 Colella and Tony Gucciardi, Bethany, committee member Arlene Ryan, Iris, Mike, and  committee member Mary Ann Mucedola.


Scholarship Essays - 2022



Michael Villano

Recently I had the opportunity to take a DNA test. I was more than excited about this. I found out I was 58.9% Italian with the strongest evidence of ancestry in the regions of Campania and Sicily. I’ve always known I was Italian and it is what I identified as the most. Being Italian has been an integral part of my life. During Christmas, my family would make the seven fish and traditional Italian cookies. Even though I can’t stand the taste or texture of fish, I respected that it was my culture and never criticized it. During Easter, my family would make more traditional Italian dishes, and these I was very happy about. In sixth grade, my classmates and I were brought down to the cafeteria. We were to fill out a survey that would determine what foreign language we would start to learn next year. The first thing that went to my mind was to choose to take Italian. I knew if I did, it would help me connect with my roots more and make me more fluent in the language that my ancestors spoke. My great grandparents were fluent speakers and being able to conversate with them fully in Italian was something I could only imagine. I continued to take Italian for five years and I do not regret taking it one bit at all. While focusing on how to speak it, the class also helped me learn more about my culture and the history of Italy. Constantly I would have my grandparent’s friends, some of who I’ve never seen before, ask me if I spoke Italian. To which I would reply that I am in the process of learning and to not judge my speaking abilities too harshly. Italian culture has influenced my life in more ways than any other culture has. That is why I will always hold a deep respect for it and cherish my heritage.



Bethany Lorenzo

As soon as I walk into my grandmother's front door she doesn't let us in without a hug and a kiss and she doesn't let us leave without one either. My grandma is 100 percent Italian and the culture has truly influenced me within our family dynamic. Our family culture is very strong. My aunts,uncle, and grandmother will go anywhere for me and they come and support me at all my events. Not every family is like this. My family is very caring and proud of me that it makes me want to do my very best. When they come to my meetings I look for them and it makes me feel good that they are there supporting me and it motivates me knowing they are there watching me. Italians are known to have strong bonds throughout generations. This is exactly what my family has. We get together every holiday and on the weekends. This allows us to grow closer and talk to each other supporting each other for all the accomplishments that have been achieved. We get together and make meals together then relax and eat them together. It's very stress relieving to just sit down and have fun with my family. My mom,dad,sister, and I will go out and support my cousins and aunts and uncles at any event they have even if it is a small one. I believe that my Grandma and her culture is to blame for us being such a supportive and close knit family. She always had us do things together as kids and I am sure she made her own children do the same and that is why they are so close. My aunts and uncles and like parents to me and I am extremely close with all my cousins it's like we are siblings. Growing up I would want to spend everyday with my cousins because they were such a strong influence on me. They taught me many rights from wrong and overall I just enjoy being around them. My Italian culture has not only influenced me to want to be able to do this with my kids as I am older but it allowed me to create a bond with my family that will be everlasting.


Iris Rodriguez – Tom Grass Memorial Scholarship

Italian Culture has influenced my life greatly although I, myself, am not Italian. I've lived in New York for about five years now and ever since I moved here I was met with Italian food, music, people, and overall culture. Every year I would be excited to go to an Italian Festival where the food was good and the people were friendly. Most of my friends are of Italian descent and I was surprised to find out that I liked pizza more than one of them.


I know that Italian culture is more than just pizza and spaghetti, although I very much love those things. One of my close friends, Rebekah, is an Italian Major and I always admired how she wanted to learn more about her own culture and it inspired me to learn more about my Hispanic culture. She would always be practicing her Italian and when I said a phrase I had learned you could see the excitement in her eyes that made me happy.


I don't know Italian but I appreciate it because of all the beautiful opera songs that I love to listen to and sing. I sang two songs in italian, their names are “O Mio Babino Caro” and “O Del Mio Dolce Ardor”, one of which got me a 100 on a NYSSMA solo.


The language is beautiful and the people are even more beautiful. I have never met an Italian mother that wasn't warm and welcoming. Even though I have no Italian lineage, I still love and appreciate the culture and wouldn't be the singer I am without it.





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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