EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Over the last couple years, members of the Italian Military Delegation associated with the 33rd Fighter Wing and the Italian Consulate in Miami organized an Italian Cooperative Language Program (ICP) for three school districts in Okaloosa County, Fla.
The program provides Italian language and culture courses implemented at Bluewater Elementary, Ruckel Middle School and Niceville High School with over 1,000 students participating this year.
“We’re proud of what we’re doing in Okaloosa County,” said Luigi Bava, director of the implementing body of the ICP. “This is a benchmark that shapes our idea of support to bilingual initiatives.”
The first year of the program took place during the 2017-2018 school year, during which 140 students participated in the program at Ruckel Middle School and Niceville High School. At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, Bluewater Elementary School was added bringing the total to 1,078 students.
“The program has exceeded our expectations,” said Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) Col. Igor Bruni, Italian Military Delegation commander. “Because of the success, we expect the program to continue after the three year initial start-up.”
Funding for the program was provided by the Italian government and three philanthropic Italian organizations to cover the cost of necessary resources and to employ Italian language teachers.
“I’m glad that in this country young American students have the opportunity to know something more about our language, culture and history,” said Marina Militare (Italian Navy) Cmdr. Andrea Olivieri, Italian Military Delegation deputy commander. “It’s a great way to see things from another perspective.”
Several members of the Italian Military Delegation are stationed in the local area with their families. Olivieri added that the program not only guarantees the learning of a new language but also serves as a great opportunity for local Italian-American students to re-discover their roots.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody involved,” said Bruni. “It attracts more students to those schools because of the new opportunities it provides and keeps the Italian language alive for Italian children in the local community.”
Last year, the Italian Military Delegation here was awarded the Lt. Gen. (Ret.) H. G. “Pete” Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award for the Military Child Education Coalition’s K-12 category at Washington D.C.
“In an increasing diverse society, cultural awareness and cultural integration represent a way to unify society and a means to help the future generations to work together” said Bruni.