At the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), we believe strongly in supporting future generations of the Italian American community. This is why we created the NIAF Congressional Fellowship; with it, we place outstanding Italian American college students, graduate students and recent graduates in the offices of members of the Italian American Congressional Delegation (IACD) on Capitol Hill to encourage and support the next generation of Italian American leadership.
Below, you’ll find the experience of one of our NIAF Congressional Fellows, and what she gained from her fellowship in American government.
When I reflect on what the NIAF Congressional Fellowship has meant to me, the word that best encapsulates this once-in-a-lifetime experience is community. Not only did I have the opportunity to work in my representative’s office and interact with constituents from my district, but I also had the chance to meet a wonderful group of people and become part of the NIAF family. Whether I was working in Congresswoman DeLauro’s office or at a NIAF-sponsored event, I could always feel the strength of the Italian American community.
Working in Representative DeLauro’s D.C.office was a truly unforgettable experience. One of my favorite parts of the fellowship was getting to give constituents tours of the U.S. Capitol. As much as I valued the exposure to how our government functions, I equally admired the times when I would get to debate with people from
the district meeting with Congresswoman DeLauro and staffers over which New Haven pizzeria is the best as they waited for their meetings. One such person turned out to be NIAF Executive Vice President John Calvelli!
The highlight of the NIAF portion of the fellowship was definitely the 41st Anniversary Gala Weekend. To see so many people from undoubtedly different backgrounds gathered in one place to celebrate the unifying love of being Italian was such a heartwarming event. I even had the chance to reunite with a member of my college graduating class, who happened to be there with her parents for the gala!
Growing up in East Haven (a small town with a large Italian American population) has made living anywhere else somewhat interesting. During my college years in Worcester, Massachusetts it was difficult to find people that knew the proper pronunciation of manicotti and pasta fagioli. Moving down to D.C. I was expecting the same culture shock. My experience with NIAF and working in Congresswoman DeLauro’s office made it much less difficult to leave my hometown because I knew I would be sharing in the undying love and appreciation for our Italian American culture (in addition to properly pronouncing the names of Italian American cuisine).
As I left the NIAF Christmas party last month, I walked cheerfully to hop on the metro, and not just because I had a panettone and copious amounts of Nutella in my gift bag. I was not sad saying goodbye to the people I’ve met through my fellowship experience because I know I am always welcome at NIAF events. This unforgettable experience has been so much more than what I expected it would be, and for that I cannot thank my NIAF famiglia enough.
College of the Holy Cross’16
Hometown: East Haven, CT
Intern with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)