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Sons of Italy® Launches Grassroots Campaign to Save the Advanced Placement Italian Program

Press Contact: Dona De Sanctis, (202) 547-2900 ddesanctis@osia.org

Washington, D.C., October 28, 2008 ­ The Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the nation's biggest organization for people of Italian heritage, has launched a national grassroots campaign to promote the study of Italian in the U.S. and save the Advanced Placement (AP) Italian program it helped establish in 2005.

Despite the growing popularity of Italian in American high schools and colleges, the College Board, which administers all 37 AP programs, is threatening to eliminate the AP Italian program.

Warned last April of the AP Italian Program's possible demise, a coalition of Italian American leaders, including OSIA, the NIAF and Unico; along with representatives from the Italian Embassy; former NY first lady, Matilda Cuomo; and her daughter, Margaret Cuomo, M.D., met with College Board officials in New York City to discuss the problem. The College Board claims it needs several million dollars to keep the program going.

n July 3, Matilda Cuomo, former first lady of New York State, along with Dr. Cuomo; Louis Tallarini, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and Salvatore Zizza, president of the NIAF, announced the incorporation of the Italian Language Foundation, a non-profit organization that will promote Italian language studies and help underwrite the AP Italian Language and Culture Program

Local Task Forces

Under Dr. Cuomo's leadership, the Italian Language Foundation will form task forces in communities across America made up of local teachers of Italian, members of OSIA and other Italian American organizations and Italian Consular representatives

They will be assisted by representatives from Italian American organizations and the nearest Italian consulate along with local and regional Italian teachers and the American Association of Teachers of Italian. These task forces will:

Background

Five years ago, OSIA, NIAF, Unico and the Italian government gave the College Board $500,000 to create the Italian AP program and exam. The program was launched in 2005 and the first test was given in 2006 to 1,597 students.

This year, 2,025 students took the Italian AP exam, but the 23% increase has not convinced the College Board of the program's viability. Citing economic burden, the Board plans to drop Italian along with Latin and French Literatures and computer science next year unless "external funding" becomes available.

The College Board decision contrasts sharply with Italian's growing popularity among college students. A 2007 survey of 70,000 students by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) revealed that 54% would choose to study Italian in college over any other foreign language.

The ACTFL survey is supported by statistics that reveal college enrollment in Italian has soared from 49,300 students in 1998 to 78,400 in 2006, according to the Modern Language Association, the professional association of university professors of foreign languages and literatures and English. That constitutes a difference of 29,100 students or a 60% increase since 1998.

"Eliminating the Italian AP exam would be disastrous," says Dr. Cuomo. "The AP tests have become so important in our schools that discontinuing the Italian one will discourage thousands of students from studying Italian."

Dr. Cuomo appeals to all Italian Americans, their families and friends to join a task force in their home state in order to advocate for the growth and development of the AP Italian Language Program and other high school Italian programs.

All interested in volunteering should send their name, address and the name and address of their local high school to: info@italianlanguagefoundation.org or visit www.italianlanguagefoundation.org.

Volunteers who are not online, can contact:

Margaret I. Cuomo, President
Italian Language Foundation, Inc.
8 East 69th Street
New York, New York 10021
TEL: 646/289 4600 FAX: 212/879 6470

Founded in 1905, OSIA is the largest and oldest national organization in the U.S. for men and women of Italian heritage in the United States. It has a network of more than 700 chapters coast to coast that work to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.