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HomeEducationSons of Italy Una Famiglia Lodge #2882 Scholarship Winners

Sons of Italy Una Famiglia Lodge #2882 Scholarship Winners

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On May 8, 2024, Una Famiglia Lodge # 2882 held its Scholarship Dinner Meeting at Silverthorn Country Club.

President Annamaria Guadagnino presented students with a $1,000.00 Scholarship from the Lodge.
Derek Felice, Spring Hill Christian Academy graduate, was given a $1,000.000 check from Una Famiglia Lodge as a Sponsor at The Chamber of Commerce Award Recognition Banquet on April 17 held at Crosspoint Church. The check was presented by Annamaria and Gus Guadagnino from Una Famiglia Lodge.

Derek was invited to the Una Famiglia Scholarship dinner with his Mother, Carrie Felice. He was also awarded a Dante Medal from the Lodge. Derek was Class Valedictorian with a GPA of 4.33. He was a member of the National Honor Society and will be attending University of Central Florida, Honors College, majoring in astronomy and physics.

Derek was editor-in-chief for the yearbook, involved in theater, arts, and technology. He demonstrated commendable community service for Hogan Law Firm, Hospice and Jericho Road Ministries. His hobbies include reading books and playing video games.

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Autumn Cooper, a Nature Coast Technical High School graduate, was also Invited to The Scholarship Dinner Meeting with her parents, Ronald and Michelle Cooper. Autumn was chosen by a scholarship committee due to her outstanding grades, essay and community service. Cooper was chosen above two other applicants. Autumn was also awarded a Dante Medal and a $1,000.00 check from the Lodge. Her GPA is 4.52 and she ranks number 3 out of her class of 328 students.

Autumn will be attending the University of North Carolina School of Arts, where she will major in Film production/ Producing and minor in Business. She was also a member of National Honor Society and she was student government class president. Other extracurricular activities she participated in were Beta Club, Film Club and the NCT Dance Team. She received the Leadership Award at the Chamber of Commerce Awards Recognition and at the Nature Coast Night of Excellence, she received the highest geometry award of all students.

Both Students were commended for their amazing accomplishments.

The Dante Medal recognizes Italian American Heritage to graduating high school students for outstanding academics and essay submissions. Dante is considered one of the greatest Italian Poets, best known for The Divine Comedy and was one of the world’s most inspired works of literature.

Una Famiglia was honored to support these students. We are a philanthropic organization that raises monies for charities for scholarships, American Cancer Society, autism, Alzheimer’s, Cooley’s Anemia, St Jude Children’s Research and United States Veterans. We are united with The Order of Sons of Italy in America and belong to the Grand Lodge of Florida. Anyone interested in joining our Lodge Family and helping those organizations, you may contact Annamaria Guadagnino, President, Una Famiglia Lodge #2882, Spring Hill – 352-650-1768.

By Autumn Cooper
Essay Submission for the Sons of Italy Una Famiglia Lodge #2882

Italian immigration into the United States has occurred in waves over the past few centuries. The period between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is perhaps the most well-known period of Italian immigration. During this period, millions of Italians immigrated to various countries, particularly within some major cities of the United States. According to research, economic hardship, overpopulation, and political instability in Italy were the primary factors driving emigration.
Before the turn of the 20th century, in the late 1800s, my maternal great-great grandparents, on my grandfather’s side, made the difficult decision to leave their birth country of Italy. They decided to come to America to give their families opportunities that they did not have in Italy. They came to this country with nothing. In fact, my great-great grandfather left his wife and first born child in Italy until he could secure a job and home for them. This was very common among the men who came over by boat. My great-great-great grandfather was Gaetano Ventroni and my aunt found his name at Ellis Island. They changed their last name from Ventroni to Vendrone in order to be more accepted while looking for work. Americanizing Italian’s last names was a common thing to do. They were immigrants who were initially unwelcomed in their new neighborhoods, just trying to survive. There were no social programs in place; no welfare, no food stamps, and no unemployment benefits. They did what they had to do to feed their families. They assimilated into the fabric of our country.
My grandmother was raised in New York, in a home without electricity and indoor plumbing. Her birth father, Alan Stevens, whose name was changed from Stephano upon arrival to the States, eventually joined the US Army, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and found opportunity and training there. My grandfather’s parents also lived in New York. His father worked as a mechanic, working on MACK trucks before he was able to save enough money to open his own restaurant/diner. Being a restaurant owner was not easy. He woke up each day at 3:00 AM in order to get to the restaurant to put on large urns of coffee and prepare food for a 6:00 AM opening, and he worked until closing each day after a 7:00 PM dinner hour. He went home only to do it all again the next day. He was a proud man. My great-grandfather’s siblings found work in factories, his cousins were farmers-all very hard jobs.
Despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles, Italian immigrants like my great-great grandparents persevered, making new lives for themselves and future generations. Their stories serve as a testament to human strength and adaptability in the face of adversity such as poor working conditions, discrimination, and language barriers.
In the US, Italian immigrants played an important role in contributing to various industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and construction. They brought with them family traditions, delicious recipes, and a strong work ethic, leaving a lasting mark on American society.
The descendants of Italian immigrants, including my family, continue to celebrate their heritage, by passing down traditions through generations. Italian culture remains an important aspect to their lives while holding on to the legacy of those who traveled across the shores so we could have a better life.
My grandfather, Don Vendrone, eventually moved to Spring Hill in 1980 to escape the harsh winters and joined the construction boom. He followed suit with his ancestors: he took great pride in his family, was a hard worker, and was proud to be an Italian.
My drive and ambition come from my Italian heritage (25%). I rely on my heritage for my strength and motivation. I enjoy working, helping the community, leading others to a common goal, and academic excellence. I am dedicated to my goals and look forward to being a Producer in the film industry. Hopefully, one day you will see my name on the big screen as a producer of an Italian movie that brings light to the experiences of Italian immigrants.

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