History and Background

Children's classes were first offered in the 1950s. Ina Lucchetti worked with Mr. Luccacini to offer an after-school Italian class for children that were taught by Maria Marchesi in the homes and basements of the members of the community. Therefore, the foundation for what would become the Italian School had already been established. With diligence, perseverance, and hard work the "Italian School" offered the first "official" classes in 1974. Mrs. Lucchetti was instrumental in getting parents and children to enroll in the new classes.

In 1974, a group of dedicated people under the leadership of Ina Lucchetti answered the appeal from the Italian Community to start an Italian Language and Culture School in Stockton. Through their hard work and dedication, these individuals made the establishment of the school a reality. These individuals held meetings, visited other areas of the state that had existing Italian classes for information and advice.

Later in 1974, a Board of Directors was formed. F.M. "Luke" Luccacini, the Italian Vice Consul of Stockton, spear-headed the organization of the first board. The first Board of Directors was comprised of nine individuals.


The individuals who were elected to serve were:

Officers:  Ina Lucchetti, President; Rino Bertini, Vice President; Elyse Sciutti, Secretary; and Luke Luccacini, Treasurer

Members At Large: Domenic George, Alma Maccini, Guiseppe Nepote, Paul Mariani, and John Muzio

John Muzio, Assistant Superintendent of Stockton Unified School District and Domenic George, a high school teacher, were very helpful in obtaining the classrooms. In the first years, the school didn't have a budget even for stamps. Through a substantial cash contribution from Mr. and Mrs. Joe Marchesotti, the school was established and on its way.

The first classes were held at Hoover Elementary in November 1974 on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to noon.  Bill Lina served as the first principal. The first teachers were: Cathy Canepa Manassero, Vanda Cutwright, Luigi Gherardi, Antonella Tambollini, Sandy Tei, Flora Van Stecklenburg; and Nancy Volpi. On the first day of classes, 209 students enrolled, including 101 adults and 108 children. Classes were held from November through the end of May.

After a summer vacation, classes were resumed in September 1975.  Judy Ratto was the cultural dancing teacher.

A few years later, the Italian language classes were also held at the University of the Pacific in Wendall Philips Hall. Since the 1980's, adult classes have been held at St. Mary's High School in Stockton. The children's classes have been held at St. Luke's Elementary School, Presentation Elementary School, and St. Michael's Church. In 2008, children's classes were added at Annunciation Elementary School.

The Italian School has been fortunate to have dedicated teachers for both the adult and children's classes. These individuals along with the School's Board of Directors want to keep the Italian language and culture alive. In addition to the first teachers, a number of individuals have served as teachers through the years, some of these individuals include: Annie Mar, Serafino Mariani, Josephine Nolfo, and Beth Vitale. Children's classes have also been fortunate to have outstanding teachers including: Diane Chincholo, Nicole Harrity, Lorenzo Mariani, Claudia Pruett, Sister Angela, and Sister Odessa.

Through the years, both Italians and non-Italians in Linden, Lodi, Manteca, Stockton, and Tracy, have supported the school in a variety of ways. Donors, students, and numerous volunteers have worked diligently for the school purely for the love of their Italian heritage and language.

In addition to language classes for both adults and children, classes are now offered for travelers who are planning to visit Italy. The Traveler's School features instruction in basic Italian, including commonly used words and phrases for travel, shopping, and dining.

To support the school, funds were raised primarily through donations, sales of Italian products, raffles, a fashion show benefit, and the Primavera Dinner-Dance that was held from 1975 to 1993. In the past, the Italian School has also sponsored other types of Italian dinners, including a Bagna Calda Dinner. A Polenta Dinner is held annually and serves as one of the major fund raisers for the School. The School is also supported with additional activities such as the Pranzo in Campagna, wine tasting events, and others.

Annually, the school awards scholarships to students who have studied Italian for at least three years in high school and meet the minimum grade point average requirement. Students from local high schools, including St. Mary's, Lincoln, Linden, and other sites, have benefited from these scholarships.

To continue the proud tradition of the Italian School, in 2008, the Board of Directors voted to establish an office or "I Ufficio" originally located at 2218 Pacific Avenue in Stockton. Currently the new "Ufficio," now located at 1308 Robinhood Dr. #4A, serves as temporary center for the Central California Italian Educational and Cultural Center, as well as a site for Traveler's Conversation School, Italian School Board meetings and other cultural and fund raising events.

It is because of the vision and hard work of not only the founding members, but also numerous individuals over three decades that the Italian-American language, traditions, and culture will be perpetuated for future generations.

 

Revised 07/01/16