Vanessa Basso and Margherita De Luca are two new students at the College of Staten Island this spring semester, who, thanks to the efforts of U.S. Congressman Michael E. McMahon and the generosity of the College of Staten Island, can continue their studies after their school, L’Aquila University, sustained severe damage in the April 2009 earthquake that struck Italy.

After the Abruzzo Earthquake, which killed 55 students at L’Aquila, the U.S. Department of State partnered with the National Italian American Federation (NIAF) to assist students who were displaced by the disaster, placing them in institutions of higher learning throughout the United States. Congressman McMahon contacted CSI President Dr. Tomas Morales to inquire as to whether CSI could accomodate some of the students, and, as a result, Vanessa and Margherita are attending classes here.

Margherita, who is taking graduate-level Environmental Science courses at CSI, says that she like the campus and the fact that she can “improve my knowledge in my field.” Vanessa, an undergraduate Engineering Science student, appreciates what she calls “a different way to educate the students and to approach studies. It is very interesting to find out these new ways to approach problems concerning my field.”

President Morales, who had the opprtunity to meet with the students last week, comments, “When Congressman Michael McMahon put out the call for CSI to offer refuge to students who had been displaced from Italy’s L’Aquila University following a devastating earthquake last April, the CSI community was quick to respond. After all, CSI is home to the largest Italian American community in the country. What a fitting place to offer shelter to these students so they could continue their education in a welcoming, safe, and supportive environment on campus and within the community. We all shared in the sorrow of their tragedy and rejoiced in helping them move on with their lives.”

Margherita and Vanessa will attend classes at CSI this semester and will return to school in Italy this May.

By Terry Mares