It is known, although some deny it they know deep down that it is true, that everybody wants to be Italian. Luckily, I was born Italian, raised Italian and I am Italian, so I thank God for those blessings. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true; I thank God every day for giving me my heritage and my family, because the combination of both is crafting me into the man I someday hope to be.
What other cultures do what we do? Where else do you get to spend every Sunday with family gathered around the table enjoying Mama’s delicious dinner? Where else can you travel the mountains, then travel the seas and coasts, then the plains, the museums, the small towns, the big historical cities and still not even conquer half the country yet? In what other culture can you have friends of all ages, shapes and sizes and treat them all just the same - as family? My heritage has taught me many things and one of the many is to love and live life with passion, heart and happiness. I have been fortunate enough to travel to Italy with family and friends many times and for that, I am forever grateful. But, even if I had not seen the crystal blue water of the Amalfi, the peacefulness and serenity of the small towns and the high peaks of the mountains and volcanoes, I would still love my heritage just as much because, here in Cleveland, the community grows stronger every day through its Italian members making a difference day in and day out.
In the fifth grade, I transferred to University School and, compared to my old school, St. Francis of Assisi, there were not many Italians. I found myself one of few. One classmate stood out from the rest and that was my friend, Tommy Sinito. Tommy and I immediately had a bond for our love of Italian culture. We knew how to eat good food, listen to great music, admire true art and beauty, dress well, and most of all, we knew how to love life and how to bring people together. We always talked about creating an Italian Club, but it wasn’t until the spring of our junior year that we took action.
Tommy and I approached our mathematics teacher, Owen Schaner, who is not Italian but had taught and lived in Italy for four years at a high school in Rome, with the idea of creating a club. Immediately, he was interested so we began to plan. In my first announcement to the school, I spoke about members of the Cleveland community who come from Italian backgrounds and what they’ve done for us all. Cleveland is blessed with some of the greatest role models and leaders in the Italian community.
After an initial meeting in the spring, attended by 40 teachers and students, Tommy and I planned and deliberated meetings and goals for the next school year. We began this year by celebrating the Feast Day of San Gennaro and catered in John Q’s Crostata’s Rustic Pizza. After that, we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi and catered in Venetian Chef Alberto Leandri. Then, on Columbus Day, we sold Corbo’s Lemon Ice in the lunchroom to the whole school. As we gained more publicity, more people wanted to join. We now have over 100 members in our club. Tommy and I opened the club to everybody, Italians and non-Italians. There were many who were skeptical to join at first, but I said to them, “It is known that everybody wants to be Italian. If you join this club, this is your chance to indulge in Italian culture and truly feel Italian for two to three hours every month.”
Tommy and I look to form a family at US. We look to strengthen the community as so many have done for ours in the greater Cleveland area. So many friends and family members have made me feel known and loved by showing examples of leadership, commitment, friendship and more and our goal is to do the same for our club members. We want every student and teacher to have a close bond with one another and what better way to do that than to practice Italian culture? University School is an all boys’ school, so Tommy and I couldn’t help but name our club, The Compare Club.