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Italian Military awarded for education initiative

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Members of the Italian Military Delegation attached to the 33rd Fighter Wing were awarded the Lt. Gen. (Ret.) H. G. “Pete” Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award for the Military Child Education Coalition’s K-12 category, during a ceremony Aug. 1, 2017, at Washington D.C.


The Italian Air Force and Navy members, are being recognized for their role in bringing the Italian Cooperative Language program to Okaloosa County School District. This initiative will provide language and culture courses to an estimated 650 students between three schools in the local area, making it the largest program of its kind in Florida.


The initiative, which was created in coordination with the Organization for the Development of Italian language, provides all the funds needed to operate the class, including teacher’s salary, text books and supplies. The classes will begin at Niceville High School and Ruckel Middle School during the 2017 school year. Next year, classes will begin at Blue Water Bay Elementary School.


Money for these programs is generally provided by the Italian government, however three generous Italian organizations heard of the cooperative and funded the three year educational venture.


“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Italian Air Force Col. Igor Bruni, 33rd FW Italian Training Supervisor. “Normally this would be funded by our government. These philanthropic organizations saw how big a deal this was and wanted to be a part of it.”


In September 2015, members of the 33rd FW began researching schools in the local area to determine how useful the program would be. They quickly learned that much like their acceptance of the Italian military community here, the schools welcomed the program with open arms.


“It’s important to be here not only as guests but as parts of the community. If we are living here for several years, it means our family will live here too. It is important to meld with the other cultures,” Bruni said. “We learn every day from the American culture, so we hope the people here can learn something from ours.”


On April 10, 2017, the Consulate General of Italy visited Okaloosa County School District to sign the Memorandum of Agreement, solidifying the agreement.


Warrant Officer (Maresciallo) Francesco Tulliani, Italian Administrative Officer, says he is excited for this initiative because it provides local Italian children with continued education in their native language.


“These children are losing their Italian. They speak very fluent English and don’t have the opportunity to study Italian for several years,” Tulliani said. “This is an opportunity for them to continue learning our language as well.”


While it is intended to help the children of Italian families, the largest impact will be on American children who are attending the schools.


“The real benefits are for the American children,” Tulliani said. “Although there may be a few Italian children in these courses, more than 90% of the children will be American.”


Bruni says the classes will begin as early as middle school here, but the impact can go as far as effecting students for college.


“Imagine a child being raised in Niceville starts learning the language in middle school and takes courses all the way through advanced placement courses. That will make them a very strong candidate for continued education and to study abroad,” Bruni added.