Northshore Magazine

January / February 2014

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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ne Education books Language Lessons An area author and attorney brings English overseas. By Alexandra Pecci lawrence-born author and attorney Alfred Zappala had a dream after visiting his ancestral homeland of Sicily: to teach English to the young people living there. "I wrote a chapter in my second book, Gaetano's Trunk, wistfully saying that if I were a wealthy man I would train students to speak English because the teaching of the English language is really inferior in Sicily," Zappala says from Sicily. On an island where tourism is so crucial to the economy, many young Sicilians can't find jobs because of their inability to speak English. A large percentage of Sicilians live in poverty. "As a rule, a restaurant or hotel that has English speakers does 10 to 15 percent more business," Zappala says. "With an unemployment rate that hovers near 50 percent for college grads in Sicily, I wanted to do something that would help grads find a job and compete with the bilingual countries." Enter Lynnfield native Stephen Carbone, who, like Zappala, had traveled to Sicily to find and visit the village where his grandfather had lived before immigrating to the United States. Carbone, too, had seen firsthand the poverty that was plaguing this place to which he felt so connected. "I was very much in tune [with] the plight that exists in society, in particular with the education system," says Carbone, who now lives in Vermont. After reading Zappala's books, Carbone contacted the author and said, "I agree with it. It sounds like you need some help. I'm able to help. Let me have your address." Man with a Plan Alfred Zappala tackles the language barrier. According to Zappala, Carbone sent him a check for $10,000, and the Sicilian Project was born. The project consists of a group of Italian and Sicilian Americans who are raising money and issuing academic grants to the Babilonia Language School in Taormina, Sicily. It began with three academic classes in June 2012, and now runs either three or four different classes per academic quarter, training between 30 and 40 students at a time. "The goal is to get them to be Englishproficient," Zappala says. Donors are the lifeblood of the Sicilian Project, and Zappala hopes that other Sicilian Americans will want to give back to their homeland. Thanks to donations, the program is thriving, not only in Taormina but also in the mountain town of Gaggi. Expansion to Palermo and Villafranca is under way. And already, the program is showing signs of success. "This past June, our first group passed the rigorous Cambridge standardized exams," Zappala says. "And we will continue to push forward." 54 January/February 2014 KJ JanFeb14 Sicilian.indd 54 11/21/13 6:08 PM

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